Cut Costs and Improve Care with Nurse Call Integration

By Chris Heim

Nurses are essential to providing quality care and assuring patient safety. But with fewer nurses per shift and less time spent at the bedside, hospitals face a variety of issues– and nurses face burnout. Unfortunately, relief is not on the way, as nursing shortages are expected to continue. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts that the country will need 2.8 million nurses by the year 2020– one million more than the projected supply. So how does a healthcare facility improve quality of care with fewer caretakers?

Increase Nursing Efficiency: Critical Alerts in Two Seconds or Less: According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, nurses only spend between 20 and 30 percent of their time in direct patient care. Keeping nurses in closer contact with patients and easing their ability to contact doctors, aids, and other colleagues can have a significant, positive impact on their productivity and effectiveness. Wireless communication solutions, integrated with existing nurse call and patient monitoring systems, can help provide those capabilities, thereby improving patient safety and increasing staff retention.

By using fully integrated wireless telephony, nurses can communicate with patients from wherever they are within a facility. More importantly, nurses can be alerted to emergencies within seconds and can escalate an event notification, if needed. This ability to communicate or forward messages, while allowing nurses to meet the needs of multiple patients without having to walk to each room, increases efficiency and reduces caretaker stress by eliminating the feeling of being needed in all places at once.

Meet and Exceed Joint Commission Audit Guidelines: Automated wireless communications solutions offer alarm integration with nurse call systems and provide the ability to deliver an audit trail of events and how they were handled. This saves nurses hours of paperwork documenting various patient activities. As hospitals now face unannounced audits by the Joint Commission, automating paperwork means reports are ready at the click of a button. In addition, this automation increases caretaker productivity and accuracy but more importantly, it puts the nurse back at the bedside, improving quality of care and patient safety.

Increase Patient Satisfaction and Improve Survey Results: Finally, integrating wireless communications solutions with current nurse call and patient monitoring systems can increase patient satisfaction, thereby increasing hospitals’ opportunity for favorable post-visit reviews. As Medicare now pays based on performance, hospitals are always looking for ways to improve the patient experience. Providing patients the ability to communicate with their assigned nurse within seconds of a call offers a less stressful environment for the patient. Knowing that a caretaker is close and health is being closely monitored can relieve a patient’s anxiety.

The quality of care is also increased by alerting nurses within seconds of a patient emergency. This keeps the number of sentinel events to a minimum. Better healthcare in the hospital means a happier, healthier patient at discharge.

Improving patient communication, increasing staff efficiency and retention, and enhancing documentation, as well as enabling nurses to focus on patient care, are just a few of the many benefits fully integrated communications solutions can provide medical facilities.

Chris Heim is CEO of Amcom Software. Sixteen of the top nineteen hospitals in the U.S. rely on Amcom Software to run their mission-critical communications. Solutions include call center communications, emergency management, mobile messaging middleware, and paging.

[From the June/July 2009 issue of AnswerStat magazine]