The authors modified the Centers for Disease Control's guideline for disease-specific isolation precautions to a hospital computerized information system. Entering a suspected diagnosis selected from the isolation option on computer terminals generated: 1) a printout listing the isolation instructions, infective material(s), and persons who should avoid exposure; 2) an order for the appropriate supplies; 3) a patient charge based on the supplies required; and 4) an option for stopping, changing, or listing the orders. In order to implement this system, both extensive in-service training for nurses and efforts to change ordering practices of physicians were necessary.
Prevalence surveys before and after computerization were used to evaluate the new system. Combined surveys showed that isolation was ordered for only 21% of patients when indicated. Failure to isolate was identified as a significant problem. As a consequence, continuous surveillance and consultation of all infected patients were instituted, resulting in isolation orders for 81% when indicated. The computerized disease-specific system has resulted in better and more accurate use of isolation, probably due to in service education and surveillance efforts.