Mobile-based communications system improves hospital care

Replacing phone- and pager-based communication systems with smartphone- and tablet-based systems reduced length of stay and adverse event calls at a large UK teaching hospital, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open.

The new system, which ran over a Cisco wireless network, routed incoming calls through a single PC, from which calls then were delivered directly to physicians' tablets and smartphones specially purchased for the trial. The new system has about three steps--a far cry from the 10-plus-step process used previously. Under the old system, nurses paged a call coordinator, who called back the nurse, determined the need, paged the physician, received a callback, confirmed the patient need, and assigned the task to the physician, the study shows.

The system simplified the administration of in-house calls, researchers said, and even reduced the length of stay from 6.5 days to 5.6 days. It also cut the number of false alarms--calls for patients who are sick, but not actually experiencing a cardiac event--from 17 in a two-month period down to four.

Two aspects of the new system universally liked by users were 1) the ability to clearly rank each message-- green, yellow or red--to indicate its priority, and 2) clear display of when a physician had completed a task, something that had to be confirmed by phones calls, previously.

There's emerging evidence that other mobile technologies, especially those that offer instant access to patient data, are also increasing productivity and efficiency in healthcare organizations.

The Bluetooth wireless function, for example, allows physicians to gather patient data from wireless sensors and monitors, rather than having to hook the patients up to hard-wired monitors and other devices. That could improve clinicians' workflow, InformationWeek Healthcare recently reported.

Meanwhile, hospitals have some catching up to do in terms of wireless capacity, according to a report last fall about mobile hardware published in Healthcare Informatics.

The big problem: A myriad of users are piling onto already overburdened hospital networks--physicians, nurses, patients, visitors, non-clinical staff, and more. Hospital CIOs tell Healthcare Informatics that they are feeling the strain not only on their bandwidth, but also on their ability to keep different users from dipping into data pools for which they are not authorized.

 

To learn more:
- read the BMJ Open story

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