Today’s healthcare industry is rife with challenges. When leaders embrace those challenges as opportunities, their healthcare organizations, staff members and the communities they serve all benefit.
In October 2014, Boulder Community Health in Colorado was faced with numerous opportunities as it consolidated services at its state-of-the-art Foothills Campus. Adding more than 150,000 square feet of clinical space and medical offices, the newly renovated and expanded facility would provide access to high-quality healthcare for the Boulder County community. Thanks to the vision of the hospital’s leadership, the new facility also provided the opportunity to upgrade to the latest healthcare communication and alarm management technologies.
“We were using old wireless phones for communication, and nurses carried pagers to receive alerts from the patient monitoring system,” says Linda Minghella, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Boulder Community Health. “Our staff was asking for text messaging, but we needed to be sure they were equipped with a secure solution. We wanted to consolidate numerous functions in one device, connect everyone across the enterprise and support the patient care environment.”
After researching the options, Linda and her team chose a Voalte smartphone solution. The hospital now uses 250 Apple iPhone 5S smartphones running Voalte One software. Nurses and support staff can send and receive secure text messages, make phone calls, and receive alarms and alerts from patient monitors.
Moving to the new facility gave BCH the opportunity to implement a standard nurse call system and site-wide patient monitoring that integrated alert notifications to caregivers’ smartphones.
“We never had alarms pushed directly to communication devices before,” explains Linda. “Once we set the goal of combining all our communication on one device, we chose Voalte. The nurse no longer has to carry a pager, a wireless phone, and another device to send text messages. While there are other texting solutions, we wanted to make sure the security of our text messages is protected, and I don’t think any other provider or service could do all that for us.”
With most of the staff already familiar with using smartphones and texting in their personal lives, adoption of the new technology was very quick. In the first two months, caregivers sent an average of 35,000 text messages per month to communicate and collaborate on patient care. The ability to send a quick question to a team member via secure text and receive a brief response is saving time over the old process of calling, waiting for call-backs or hunting for the right person.
“A couple of our nursing units are much larger than they were at our old campus,” says Michele Sternitzky, Director of Medical Surgical Nursing. “The smartphones are much more efficient than running from room to room trying to locate someone. They also help minimize interruptions while caregivers are in the room with a patient. Receiving a text message with a small chime or quick buzz gives the nurse immediate information she can use to determine if she needs to step out of the room right away, or finish what she is doing first.”
Adjusting clinical workflow to accommodate the new alarm strategy took a bit more time. Nurses at the point of care had only carried pagers previously, so they needed to adjust their old workflow processes. Hospital IT staff worked with clinicians to integrate patient monitors with Connexall middleware, which sends alarms and alerts to the appropriate caregiver’s smartphone.
“We put a lot of time and energy into putting in place standard communication protocols and making sure alarms and alerts are going to the proper people,” says Linda. “We had to strike a fine balance and be sure we don’t over-alarm. We made some changes recently to our SPO2 alarming to be sure we’re not causing alarm fatigue.”
In addition to fine-tuning existing systems, the hospital is planning to continue adding new technologies. Soon, the BCH team will be looking at adding IV pumps to the alarm and alert notifications going to Voalte smartphones. Providers will be added into the communication loop as the hospital adds Voalte Me for secure text messaging on personal smartphones.
“With this beautiful new facility,” Linda says, “we had a great opportunity to ask, ‘What does the future look like?’ By leapfrogging over older technologies to smartphones, we made an investment in our future, made adoption for our staff much easier, and gave our community the opportunity to receive the highest-quality care.”