Conquering communications hurdles with a single platform

From the mHealthNews archive
By Eric Wicklund

Care team members in healthcare settings often rely on a mishmash of communications devices, ranging from landlines and pagers to laptops and smartphones. At places like Avera Health, that means a nurse will be interrupted every 11 minutes to answer or place a call – or to run around the hospital looking for a phone or nurse's station.

Avera, a six-hospital, 300-site network based in South Dakota, recently adopted a unified communications platform developed by Voalte with the hope of enabling doctors, nurses and other staff to communicate with each other without interruption or hassle. They're among a growing number of health systems taking advantage of technology that allows doctors to use their own phones and nurses and other staff to use devices supplied by the enterprise.

Jill Casanova, director of critical care-adult specialty at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Fall, S.D., said administrators wanted a system that would "integrate technology into the patient experience" – meaning that technology wouldn't even be noticed by patients. A doctor or nurse could send or receive a message, schedule a test or consult with a colleague right at the bedside, and it would be seen as a part of the care process rather than a distraction.

[See also: Are smartphones hitting their stride in healthcare?]

Asked how well the technology has worked, Candice Friestad, the hospital's director of informatics, said it took less than a minute for a nurse practitioner at a patient's bedside to consult with a pharmacist and adjust the patient's medication. She's also noticed a "significant" reduction in nurse call lights.

"There's a significant improvement in staff satisfaction," added Casanova.

Also trying out the new platform is ProMedica, a 13-hospital, 300+-location health system serving northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

"We wanted an open, scalable platform that can securely facilitate communication throughout all our locations," Alison Avendt, vice president of operations for ProMedica Toledo Hospital, said in a press release.

Faced with Joint Committee mandates to reduce alarm fatigue and improve alarm management, CMS' emphasis on improving the patient experience and their own doctors' preferences to use mobile devices that don't mess up their workflow, health systems are taking a shine to platforms like Voalte's aptly named Voalte Platform. Alex Brown, director of strategy for Sarasota, Fla.-based mHealth company, said many health systems are looking to replace their legacy systems and take advantage of smartphones that can transmit secure messages – whether that's a doctor's own device or one provided by the enterprise. Newer platforms like Voalte's also allow health systems to group care teams or people in certain departments together for messaging, as well as sort messages by roles, rooms, units or teams.

Trey Lauderdale, Voalte's founder and CEO, said health systems often have a "false sense of security and reliability" in their communications platforms, many of which have been in place for more than two decades. Doctors, nurses and patients who are using the latest iPhones, iPads and Android devices at home are entering the hospital or doctor's office and using an old landline or pager.

"It's 2015, and the technology being used is still a pager," he said.

See also:

Nurses and smartphones: A vital connection

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