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Mixed reports about the value of health care kiosks are circulating after two different studies on the same clinical trial discuss how even an effective health IT application might create workflow problems.

One report was published in a peer-reviewed journal, while the other, conducted by researchers from the University of California at San Francisco, appeared recently on the California Healthcare Foundation website. Its purpose was to determine the efficacy and safety of using computer kiosks in emergency departments. Three emergency departments in California participated in the trial, following a successful pilot of the kiosk strategy at an urgent care center, involving women with uncomplicated urinary tract infections

After providing urine samples, women with UTI symptoms completed online questionnaires at the kiosks. The conclusion of the study was published last year in Academic Emergency Medicine and found that "An interactive computer kiosk accurately, efficiently and safely expedited the management of women with uncomplicated UTI in a busy, urban ED. Expanding the use of this technology to other conditions could help to improve ED patient flow."

The California Healthcare Foundation recently posted a follow-up report, however, that outlined several problems in the implementation of the kiosks.

For example, it turned out that the proportion of patients with suspected UTIs who were referred to the kiosks ranged from 20 to 84 percent at different sites because some triage nurses resisted referring eligible patients to the kiosks. They felt that the kiosks disrupted their workflow. In addition, the machines themselves were prone to breakdowns, which made the nurses' task harder, according to the story.

John Stein, MD, author of the Academic Emergency Medicine paper and an associate professor of emergency medicine at UCSF, said he thinks the first study's conclusions still have value

From the story:

"We were successful in proving the kiosks' utility. We were able to show dramatically increased efficiency in care without sacrificing quality," Stein said.

Read more about health care kiosks.

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