by Ilan Rubin, CEO, Wavelink
The healthcare sector has seen many lifesaving developments stem from technology over the past 10 years. From the improvement of telehealth for remote communities to the implementation of digital patient histories, aged care organisations now boast a range of organisational and patient-centric technology that keeps operations running smoothly.
However, there are still gaps in this gradual automation process. This could be due to the hands-on nature necessary for patient care that makes some automation opportunities less attractive, while other opportunities simply might not be seen as important as other systems. Whatever the case, one area that the aged care sector can benefit from significantly is the upgrade of their communication processes.
While this may seem like a superficial issue, siloed and fragmented communication systems such as pagers can cause extreme frustration and create inefficiencies across the team. Additional factors such as alarm and interruption fatigue and lack of caller ID also weigh on the minds of aged care professionals looking to execute their work quickly and offer the best patient care.
Despite the clear shortcomings of the current communication systems, there has been little guidance on how best to replace these programs without putting patient and staff safety at risk. The obvious choice would be to swap out the pager for the smart phone; however, without a clear communication strategy many facilities end up with expensive devices that don’t work to solve the real problem.
When it comes to implementing real change in this field, there are four key pillars to address:
Improving communication isn’t just about swapping a pager for a messaging app. It provides an opportunity for aged care leaders to provide a base for total clinical communication. Understanding the importance of making the transition from siloed to collaborative communication will ensure that patient care is always prioritised.
To unify an aged care team through a communication medium, one must consider three key factors: voice communication; secure messaging; and alarm notifications. Addressing each of these points in a way that delivers the most targeted form of contact will streamline aged care operations and keep all staff alert and aware.
The transition from old systems to new can be a long process, especially when health and safety and a duty of care are involved. It is not uncommon for systems transitions to take longer than a year. However, the implementation of phased deployment will result in a manageable transition that is supported by clinicians and system engineers to keep workflows consistent and patient care prioritised.
The most important element to consider when choosing to integrate previous systems with upgraded ones is finding a vendor that is compatible with the vendors in an organisation’s current ecosystem. This will ensure that any new additions to the ecosystem will be interconnected with previous systems.
Once the correct vendor has been selected, it’s important to ensure that the communication methods provided are tailored to individual needs. Aged care facilities should look at employing a notifications system that not only provides the standard patient, event, and care team context with calls, text messages, and alarm notifications, but also provides relevant information such as lab results, nurse-call data, sepsis risk indicators, and infectious disease results, among others.
It’s also worth considering what type of device is best suited to each area of the facility. Smart badges where only a talking interface is needed might be better suited to reception, while smart phones that can scan barcodes and take notes might be better suited to professionals on call.
There are several key benefits to phasing out traditional pagers and public address systems and moving to a modern communication system. From an IT point of view, this approach means aged care organisations can minimise communication siloes and points of vulnerability and failure, and maximise the value of technological investments.
Clinical benefits can include the streamlining of processes for physician consultations and cutting the page-and-wait frustration. Aged care facilities can achieve faster communication, clear knowledge of who is contacting whom (and why), and assurance that workers are receiving only the most relevant information to them as they continue to support those who need it most.
- Ilan Rubin is CEO of Wavelink, a Spectralink and Vocera distributor.