For decades, hospitals have relied on paging technology to transmit crucial updates to their personnel. Their low maintenance requirements mean pagers have long been considered a reliable and desirable solution. However, technological advancements have now far surpassed the humble pager’s capabilities, prompting many hospitals to adopt more modern alternatives. Smart devices have proven to be valuable assets in the healthcare industry, demonstrating the significant efficiencies and advancements that can be achieved through modernisation.
For hospitals, having a convenient and efficient communication system is critical in streamlining operations and enhancing their life-critical services. As such, it’s imperative that they keep up with the latest technological advancements to ensure seamless communication among staff members.
The drive to modernise hospital communications
Clear and effective communication is crucial in a hospital setting, as miscommunication or communication failure can have grave consequences. There are five primary reasons why hospitals must adopt more modern communication methods:
- Two-way communication: pagers may be seen as an effective means of mass communication by hospital administrators and staff, but their lack of two-way communication capabilities is a compelling reason to replace them. Paging is a one-way communication method that does not let the sender confirm that a message has been received and understood. Using a pager to summon a healthcare worker can be ineffective because there is no assurance that the intended recipient has received and read the message or will respond in a timely manner.
- Auditing and compliance: there’s a lack of record-keeping related to paging. Hospitals are regularly audited, particularly in the event of a death, and having a complete record of when messages are sent and received, and when staff respond to calls and alarms, is critical. This can help to demonstrate responsiveness, show that proper processes are followed, and ensure compliance needs are met. Paging does not support this need, and it can be difficult to prove compliance without a record of these details.
- Timeliness: there can be a significant time lag between a person receiving a page and returning the call, which can result in delays in getting the right people to the right place—and patient—at the right time. This can have a negative impact on the hospital’s duty of care and patient experience and safety, as well as compliance. Hospitals require rapid communication that clearly and quickly conveys messages to reduce the potential for missed messages and delays in patient care.
- Clarity: paging can impact the effectiveness of communication, as users are constrained to communicate under a 120-character limit. This poses challenges for staff trying to convey the details of complex cases in a short amount of time, as well as for transferring care between shifts.
- Security: secure communication is increasingly important for hospitals, particularly as technology and cyber threats become more advanced. Paging devices are not a secure channel and should not be used to transmit protected health information (PHI). This restricts the capacity for staff to use them to communicate sensitive clinical messages, making it imperative for hospitals to adopt more secure communication methods.
Smart devices can help hospitals enhance communication and compliance
Unlike pagers, smart devices can include healthcare-specific apps and functionality that deliver immediate communication between team members, which can accelerate response times, improve care, and, ultimately, deliver a better patient experience.
Smart devices offer multiple advantages for hospital communications, including:
- Multi-way communication: smart devices surpass traditional paging methods by facilitating seamless multi-way communication. With the ability to read and respond to messages in real-time, hospital staff can streamline their workflows and ensure compliance. Furthermore, smart devices support multiple secure communication channels—including voice, messaging, and video—providing improved flexibility in the ways users communicate.
- Timely transfer of patient information: smart devices let hospital staff securely access patient history and information in real time, right in the palm of their hand. With this feature, users can enter information into the system and immediately push it to authorised parties, streamlining handovers, eliminating inefficiencies, and ensuring that no data is missed.
- Improved auditing and compliance: smart devices provide a full audit trail to hospital staff, allowing for comprehensive tracking of all communications, including what happened, who was involved, and when the incident occurred. This information is critical for auditing and compliance purposes and can be used to show response times in the event of an emergency or patient death. By providing a complete record of messaging, smart devices can help to reduce the potential for legal implications.
- Layer context over communications: communications over smart devices are enabled by software applications that can be integrated into other systems within the healthcare environment. This integration lets context be layered over communication channels, providing an improved understanding of messaging. For example, a patient with a fall risk can be presented with a Nurse Call notification, and the assigned nurse can view this information and decide to attend to the patient with a buddy. This contextual information provides improved response times and better outcomes for patients.
With a single, multi-function form factor, one unified smart device can eliminate the need to carry multiple devices, while seamlessly integrating with other essential hospital workflows.
What to look for in a smart device provider
When it comes to choosing a smart device that works for the hospital environment, it’s important to work with a provider that understands the hospital and healthcare environment, specifically with respect to distributed alarm systems and their interaction with nurse calls, as well as the necessity for auditing and compliance. It’s also key to collaborate with a provider who understands the unique challenges and limitations of hospital facilities.
The right provider can help hospitals achieve a tailored solution that uses a blended technology approach and is built to meet their unique needs. To learn more about paging replacement, and how you can enable your hospital staff to communicate more effectively, contact the Connected Health team today.