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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Best practices when replacing pagers to manage change, reduce risk, and strengthen safety

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by Ilan Rubin, CEO, Wavelink

Communication in the aged care sector is about more than just collaboration, it can be a matter of life and death. At the very least, strong communication among healthcare professionals is integral to patient safety and their health outcomes, as well as the smooth running of the aged care facility.

Pagers have long been a mainstay of the aged care industry. In the past, they delivered effective asynchronous communication at a basic level. However, pagers have long since been superseded by purpose-built communication devices that far outstrip the siloed and fragmented capabilities that pagers can offer.

Transitioning from pagers to unified communication devices isn’t necessarily a simple like-for-like replacement. Aged care facilities must account for the fundamental differences in operating procedures that a new solution can deliver. For example, when using pagers, there is inevitably a lag between contacting the person and receiving a response. With modern communication devices, communication is instant, potentially delivering better outcomes across the board. It’s therefore essential to ensure pagers are replaced in a safe, strategic way that minimises risk and increases successful adoption.

The dramatic nature of the change must be accounted for in any pager replacement strategy. It’s essential that healthcare professionals and other workers understand the value that the new devices will offer as well as how to use them for maximum impact. Change management is, therefore, a crucial stage of the replacement process.

Change management should also include a focus on workflows because the immediacy and flexibility of the new system will almost certainly result in altered workflows, changing the ways in which people respond to and prioritise alarms and messages. Understanding how to do this effectively is essential.

Part of this includes ensuring that communications become integrated with the new solution. Pagers tend to support just one type of communication while smart solutions integrate voice communication, secure messaging, and alarm notifications into a single device to deliver significant productivity benefits. Reaching the right people in a timely fashion with detailed information saves time and effort, and means that resources are directed to where they need to be much sooner. Connecting inside or outside the facility is easier and there is no need to search for a colleague’s phone number; the platform creates groups and teams as well as escalation protocols to ensure that no one is ever left wondering if their intended recipient received the message.

Most of the time, these benefits aren’t delivered immediately because organisations take a phased approach to rolling out devices. It’s important to work with a provider that can support either an instant transition or a phased approach, depending on the aged care facility’s needs and unique use case. The new system should be able to interoperate with existing phone, call centre, and paging systems so that those on the legacy system can still communicate effectively with those on the new system.

Effective communication can save precious minutes in an aged care setting. Saving just a minute or two with each communication can quickly add up, letting aged care workers deliver better resident care, faster. In practice, this can mean pain relief is delivered sooner or critical situations are addressed faster. Therefore, it’s essential to highlight the benefits of improved communication as part of the replacement strategy.

The proposed benefits of a new, unified communication solution will only be realised if adoption rates are strong and staff members use the devices to their full potential. To choose the right solution, it’s important to look for a provider that:
• minimises communication siloes or points of failure
• manages change while minimising risk and costs in a mixed environment
• maximises the value of technology investments
• provides one point of contact for IT support needs.

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