When a large hospital organization in the Southeast gathered doctors, nurses, first responders, state police and the National Guard to run mass casualty drills, things did not go as planned. The biggest issue: communication.
The military helicopters used different radio systems from first responders and police and the hospital staff used pagers. After attempting to communicate on different frequencies, the team switched to cell phones.
“In that noisy and dynamic environment, it was a sub-optimal solution,” says Dan O'Brien, Avtec, North America Business Manager for Motorola. “Having a console that tied the disparate radio systems together would have resulted in a better drill and, should the need arise, much better outcomes in a major disaster.”
Dealing with natural disasters, severe weather events, active shooters, mass casualties and other external events requires hospital staff to coordinate with multiple outside agencies but communicating with stakeholders can be a challenge.
“Hospitals, ambulances and police might not be operating on the same radio system--and doctors and nurses are likely not carrying any radios at all,” O’Brien says. “When you have all kinds of disparate groups coming in to help, if they are unable to [communicate], it almost hurts the situation more than it helps.”
The need for integrated infrastructure
An estimated 240 million calls are placed to 911 dispatchers every year; healthcare workers are five times more likely to be the victims of workplace violence than workers in all other industries; and there were 154 hospital-related shootings over a 10-year period, including active shooter events in hospitals in 2021 and 2022.
The need for fast, accurate, secure communication with public safety agencies, management and security staff to protect patients, staff and visitors has never been greater. In fact, the global hospital security systems market is expected to top $51 billion by 2032.
But technological issues and lack of standardization are among the primary barriers for effective communication between EMS and the emergency department and the lack of interoperability between two-way radio networks can have disastrous consequences in emergencies.
“Even in a digital age, there are many analog radio systems currently in use,” O’Brien says. “A hospital that invested in the latest MOTOTRBO technology for their in-house communications still has to talk to first responders that may be using decades-old technology.”
O’Brien notes that Avtec Scout solves the problem. The dashboard works with both legacy radio systems and the latest DMR, P25 and PTT over cellular systems as well as a number of SIP telephony systems. Allowing multiple stakeholders to communicate during emergencies regardless of technology has the potential to save lives.
Better protocols mean better outcomes
The interoperability between the diverse ecosystem of communication devices used in healthcare settings promotes the continuous flow of lifesaving communications.
During emergencies, hospitals and first responders from different jurisdictions might not be able to connect via radio dispatch. The ability to seamlessly share patient vitals or critical information can improve response time, treatment, patient outcomes and responder safety.
O’Brien notes that seamless communication ensures that first responders can relay information to the hospital about the number and types of injuries at the scene to determine which hospitals are best equipped to receive them. Interoperability also ensures that first responders have information about hospitals that are on diversion or bypass status.
“Obviously there is a need for communication between hospitals and first responders,” he adds. “Having a dispatch console that can patch radio systems together or connect to the healthcare provider’s smartphone allows information to be instantly and easily relayed between the people that have it and the people who need it.”
Enabling users to talk across disparate systems like radio, telephone and broadband/LTE, also improves hospital operations and protects patients, staff and visitors.
In cities where emergency medical services (EMS) or social workers respond to mental health or overdose calls, patients might be confused, disoriented or combative (and unrestrained) upon arrival at the hospital. O’Brien explains, “Being able to alert the hospital medical and security staff of the situation before they arrive at the ambulance bay gives everyone a better chance at a positive and safe outcome.”
A lack of communication can have disastrous consequences in a healthcare setting. Investing in a single dispatch solution that works with multiple radio systems provides the interoperability that healthcare organizations need to excel as part of a healthcare team, provide quality patient care and protect staff during emergencies.
For more information about how Avtec Scout Dispatch Consoles can improve communications, please schedule a demo or book a consultation.