Blue Mountain Health System has parlayed $700,184 in gaming revenue into BMWs for patients in its Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton hospitals.

But don't don your driving gloves and race on down to be admitted. These BMWs are Bedside Mobile Workstations, state-of-the-art computers on wheels that allow nurses to scan the patient's name band to ensure and document his or her identity, and then enter the patient's blood pressure, temperature, pulse, heart rate, notes and other information into the hospitals' records system – all right at the patient's side.

The units save time and ensure accuracy while at the same time allowing nurses to actually spend time with and get to know their patients. That's important, said Blue Mountain's Director of Fund Development Joseph Guardiani, "in helping patients to understand what's going on and making sure they are part of the process."

The new system affords more patient safety, portability and accuracy, he said.

The system is expected to be up and running by Dec. 31, said Blue Mountain Senior Network Analyst Bill Gillespie. He is assembling and programming eight of the units a day. In the first week of January, nurses will begin to be trained to use the units.

"By the end of January, these will be out on every nursing unit with the nurses routinely using them on their own," said vice president of Clinical Services Ruth Brennan.

Blue Mountain Health System first used $300,000 of the grant, from the Monroe Local Share Account (money from the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act), to install the wires and cables needed to be able to use the BMWs. The systems are crucial for the hospitals to meet the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Electronic Health Record ponderous meaningful use guidelines.

Compliance with those guidelines allows the hospitals to leverage millions in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incentive payments – money that will be funneled back into technological improvements.

"That award positions us to be able to reach the meaningful use of this electronic medical record by 2013," Guardiani said. "Actually, we're a little ahead of schedule. If we meet those meaningful use guidelines, we will get incentive payments from the government of about $8 million between the two (hospitals)."

Blue Mountain Health System received the grant in May. Since then, Brennan said, a team of nurses and other employees has been working to implement the system and decide how best to train its users.

Blue Mountain used the grant money in three phases. The first phase, which took several months, built the groundwork for the BMWs, replacing old servers, running cable to connect the servers and installing a wireless network.

"Our infrastructure – our servers, our cables, our switches – were so old and so unreliable because of their age, we couldn't run the new technology on our network," Brennan said.

The second phase was to purchase the 41 BMW units for another $300,000. An additional $100,000 went for new desktop personal computers or other hardware. Another $30,000 will be used to buy technological equipment for the operating room.

In about three months, medication administration will be added to the array of the BMWs' abilities.

A nurse will be able to scan the patient's identification, her own badge and the drug that is due for that patient.

"All three have to match back to the order that's in the computer, to make sure it's the right drug for the right patient at the right time, right as the doctor ordered," Brennan said. "That's going to be huge, because if anything is out of sync, there's an alarm that comes up."

The medication administration ability will reduce medication errors, said spokeswoman Lisa Johnson.

The BMWs also act as an electronic checklist to make sure all aspects of a patient's prescribed care, such as consultations, are met.

"If you don't have certain things in place, you can't go forward," Guardiani said.

"It won't let you," Brennan added.

"The third and final phase is expected to be in place by January 2013," she said. "All of the doctors' orders will be entered into the (BMW) computer directly." That will ensure accuracy and immediacy.

"It goes immediately from the doctor's hand to the laboratory or the pharmacy," she said.

It's also a timesaver for doctors. Instead of competing for access to a paper chart, several of them can enter information for the same patient at one time through the BMWs. It also allows the doctors to see what the others are doing.

The BMWs also boast special keyboards that are waterproof and bacteria resistant, Brennan said.

The new technology not only means immediate better patient service, but is crucial in the long-term in what is an increasingly competitive health care arena.

"If we can't provide this kind of technology, we won't be able to keep doctors here, and we won't be able to get patients here," she said. "This has become the new standard of care."