It’s tough to overstate the magnitude of stress, risks and obstacles hindering healthcare workers today. As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, healthcare organizations have no choice but to get creative, make the most of dwindling resources, and find ways to ease pressures on staff without sacrificing patient care and safety.
In this post, we’ll focus on three factors that are crucial to healthcare operations, both in times of crisis and calm:
- Security monitoring: being able to quickly detect any threats or suspicious activities across an entire building or campus.
- Emergency response: being able to respond instantly and appropriately to threats.
- Routine/operations communications: Prompt communications with staff, patients and other select audiences on issues that impact their schedule, activities or experience.
While every healthcare organization has similar mechanisms in place at some level, common gaps that can wreak havoc in healthcare delivery include:
- Inability to respond instantly, notifying all affected individuals immediately, without violating privacy.
- Having to log into separate systems or dashboards to manage security monitoring and communications technologies.
- Delays in disseminating adequate intel (e.g. building maps, fire locations) to first responders when you have only moments to react and keep people from harm.
- Difficulty in deploying mass notifications to remote audiences (staff, partners, patients and more).
- Reliance on manual steps, adding to staff workload and chance of human error.
Your ideal solution shouldn’t cost a fortune
When most of us think of potential solutions to technology gaps, it’s natural to be overcome with visions of a massive technology overhaul with the price tag to match. It’s not a route we recommend.
In, reality, you can solve every one of the gaps outlined above by integrating technologies you already own.
That means two things:
- You can start small and add integrations and functionalities as you go.
- You can tweak, layer, adapt and customize your integrations as your needs change and more funds become available.
Altogether, it’s an unbeatable way to automate critical security, communications and emergency response functions, versus investing a fortune into new systems that may not match your needs in another 5 or 10 years.
Two real-life cases
What could these integrations look like in real life? Below you’ll read about two healthcare organizations that came to us to solve communications gaps with technology integrations.
While these integrations happened before the COVID-19 outbreak, they illustrate real-life applications and benefits to staff and patients.
Case 1: Apex Health
First up is a hospital we’ll call “Apex Health” to maintain their anonymity. Apex serves more than 50 counties in Indiana, and struggled with a couple of issues:
- Nurse managers spent four hours daily making calls to fill open shifts. Apex wanted to reduce the time and effort that into this task.
- The overuse of an overhead paging system for routine announcements resulted in excessive noise levels throughout the hospital campus. Instead, Apex wanted to limit overhead paging to emergencies only.
To counter those challenges, our integrations included:
- Automated, staff-by-phone system for nurses.
- Small LED signage and virtual PA to offer a silent, visual way to communicate routine, non-emergency messages throughout the hospital.
- POE audio visual displays with high-intensity flashers, speaker, sound meter and screen to scroll automated “Please be quiet” messages.
- PC alert pop-ups for silent mass notifications to approximately 20,000 workstations across facilities.
- TAP interface with the nurse call system and Simplex hard-wired buttons in the NICU.
- Fire panel and patient satisfaction kiosk integrations.
- Fewer announcements and less noise over the PA system. Routine information is now communicated via LED scrolling signs.
- Automated phone scheduling system has freed up hours for nurse managers each day.
- Faster nurse responses and fewer unfilled shifts.
- Silent, instant notification from patient rooms to staff with integrated hard-wire and wireless panic buttons.
- Lower noise levels, with evidence to show sound-monitoring technology has changed staff behavior, increased patient satisfaction and HCAHPS scores.
Case 2: Southern Ohio Medical Center
Southern Ohio Medical Center, a 222-bed, rural hospital, needed a mass notification system that could wear many hats, to communicate with both staff and patients. That required the flexibility to create custom recipient lists and list managers, which the health system couldn’t find with conventional, “cookie-cutter” systems.
To make that possible, our integrations at the hospital included:
- SMS text messaging system
- LED and visual POE signs
- Phone system
- Bed management system
- Fire alarm system
- PC screens/pop-ups
- Automatic follow-up calls to emergency department patients.
- Automated patient reminder calls, customized to prevent disclosure of private health info.
- Immediate text messaging to intended recipients.
- Bed management system integration notifies housekeeping when a room is available.
- Fire alarm integrations trigger PC alerts (pop-ups) on all workstations.
- Messages are displayed on LED and visual POE signs where overhead paging isn’t heard.
- Increased patient satisfaction, reduced staff workload.
“Our patients really appreciate appointment reminder and follow-up calls,” said Jeanie Taylor, Telecommunications System Support Specialist at the hospital. “Before the automated system, it was virtually impossible for us to call everyone on the list. To even make the calls we did took one person all day.”
Integrations also benefited patient discharges, she added: “No longer do new patients need to wait an hour or longer for paperwork processing, etc. Our housekeeping crews can get in and get the room ready for the next patient almost immediately.” In all, “patients are pleasantly surprised at our level of technology and efficiencies for such a small and remotely located hospital system.”