Implementing an electronic medical record system isn’t easy, but Saint Joseph Hospital, part of Resurrection Health Care in Chicago, found that the process got much smoother once it started using polling software and interactive keypads to get hospital executives up to speed. But that's not all the hospital ended up using them for.

After renting the devices for use in outside meetings, the hospital purchased about 100 of the devices from Turning Technologies about six months ago to help train its management team, ensuring they understand all aspects of the new EMR. The effort was so well received that it may find other applications at the hospital. “I’m seeing a lot of interest from both clinical and non-clinical staff in how they could work it into their programs,” says Saint Joseph’s coordinator of presentation services and event logistics Scott Wanner.

The software, which integrates with PowerPoint, allows presenters to embed questions in slide presentations and receive audience feedback with supplied keypads or their ownsmartphones. It also automatically aggregates and displays response data on screen, giving presenters an instant snapshot of audience reactions and a way to gauge knowledge levels in real time, and enabling audience members to engage more with the material. It also can be used outside of PowerPoint, so users can, for example, overlay a poll on an X-ray and give the audience some clinical options to choose from.

Wanner says the hospital started using the polling system during executive staff meetings, which bring more than 400 hospital leaders together, as part of the rollout of the new EMR. Now it’s being used for physician leadership meetings to uncover areas that need to be addressed both at that meeting and in future meetings. It also was used to gauge employees’ knowledge about healthy eating as a part of a newly launched healthy-culture committee’s lectures. And it has spread to the food-service department as well, which used the software to poll employees—who range from dieticians to front-line food servers—to get instant feedback on followup from its yearly employee satisfaction survey. “For example, if they said they need help on the tray line, we could use it to ask whether A or B would better resolve the crunch,” says Wanner. Housekeeping is also interested in using polling to ensure that after the daily morning rundown, everyone knows the specific areas of concern they’re being asked to deal with that day.

“We’re just now rolling in out in the continuing medical education arena to engage residents and others who attend grand rounds and morning-report meetings,” says Wanner. Because it can be assigned to individuals so you can track how each person votes, it could be used for CME credit, though so far Saint Joseph has not tracked individual responses. “Once they sign in, do they stay at the meeting, and are they staying engaged throughout? Did a particular person respond to all 25 questions? The CME team wants to use it; right now they’re deciding when and how to launch it.” He adds that board exam instructors have been using it to identify and address knowledge gaps in the hospital’s residents before moving on to different subjects. “We’ve talked about giving residents a device at the beginning of the year so we can track not only attendance at lectures, but also to keep them engaged. I know the graduate medical education folks like that idea.”

The CME team is thinking through how much policing they want to do, but they also like the idea that they could use the devices to track and engage attendees, he says. “You could conceivably put the post-test up on screen and let people answer it there and then. The question is, do you really want to have that feedback live?” Of course, there’s is the option to allow only the poller to see the results.

Part of the attraction, and usefulness, of using a device versus asking for a show of hands, in addition to being able to track individual answers, is that people can be swayed by the crowd. So if they see the majority voting a particular way, they’ll likely vote with the majority, or not vote at all. “With these devices, you can see the total number of responses, so you know when everyone—or at least the majority—has chimed in with an opinion. It has a low learning curve, and it allows everyone to participate in events.”