Nurses are at the center of patient-centered healthcare communications. This is why many healthcare facilities have deployed wireless nurse mobility solutions, Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) noted in a recent white paper, “Empowering Nurses with Wireless Phones.”
The nurse mobility solutions rolled out by healthcare facilities often consist of wireless phones using either Wi-Fi or Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT (News - Alert)) technology tied into a nurse call system, Alcatel-Lucent explained.
There are three key benefits of building a wireless mobility solution for nurses:
- Nurses become more efficient and effective when unchained by landlines
- Healthcare facilities become more restful when wireless phones use vibrate mode instead of ringing
- Patient satisfaction increases from more responsive care
The savings can be great with a nurse mobility solution. Roughly $12.3 billion is wasted annually by U.S. hospitals due to communication inefficiencies, Alcatel-Lucent said in the white paper. Of that amount, 40 percent is due to latency in nurse communications.
Five best practices
From its work developing such solutions, Alcatel-Lucent Healthcare Solutions recommends five best practices for crafting and deploying a wireless solution for nurses.
First, make sure the wireless network is ready. Coverage and capacity are needed to support a large number of wireless phones, and if nurses can’t trust a wireless phone system they will go around it. Partial coverage insufficient capacity will kill a nurse mobility solution before it gets off the ground.
Second, nurses must be able to make and receive outside calls. Although it might be tempting to restrict communications to those between other nurses and staff, the reality is that nurses contact a variety of people outside healthcare circles, including concerned patient family members. This includes ensuring that the automatic number identification that shows up when a nurse places a call shows the phone’s actual number, not a hospital switchboard that will delay communication.
Integration with nurse call systems is another important element when deploying a nurse mobility solution. For instance, “nurse call buttons at bedsides and in washrooms initiate a call to the nurses’ station, activate lights outside the room and generate an alert loud enough to be heard throughout the ward,” Alcatel-Lucent suggested.
Alcatel-Lucent noted that when integrating wireless phones with a nurse call system, provide location information in text format so nurses can assess at a glance, and include texting capabilities on nurse phones so they can distribute tasks as required.
Fourth, solicit opinions from all stakeholders when putting together a nurse mobility solution so the final product includes adequate flexibility.
“A common mistake when deploying a nurse mobility solution is to gather requirements only from nursing department heads,” Alcatel-Lucent stressed. “The solution’s success will depend on how broadly it is adopted by the front-line nursing staff and aides that will be using it on a daily basis.”
Finally, anticipate and plan for workflow changes when building the solution. Successful deployments require numerous planning sessions, according to the paper. Things to consider include where calls should be directed when calls go unanswered, how long to wait before redirecting a call, and how alarms will be cleared when the system integrates with a nurse call system.
These five suggestions help healthcare organizations keep patients happy and its nurses accessible, a situation that can make the difference between life and death.
Edited by Peter Bernstein