Study: Nurses unsatisfied with wireless networks, communication

What Americans call IT, other English-speaking countries call ICT, for information and communications technologies. The communication part is an important component of workflow. And when communication breaks down, clinician frustration rises and errors often occur. So it's a little disheartening to read that, in a recent survey of more than 100 acute-care and home-health nurses, 71 percent said the wireless networks within their organizations were inadequate to support point-of-care documentation and communication with other clinicians.

Often, according to the study from Menlo Park, Calif.-based Spyglass Consulting Group, networks suffer from coverage gaps, interference and heavy traffic that can overload the infrastructure and result in connection loss. But voice-over-Internet-protocol telephony, now in place at two-thirds of the institutions represented in the survey, can lead to unwelcome interruptions of the care process and increased chance of medical error, Spyglass reports. "The problem with using a VoIP phone is when the nurse is with a patient, they have to triage incoming calls at the bedside. She could be doing something critical such as administering medication, and that is disruptive to their train of thought. This can introduce errors into the process," Spyglass Managing Director Gregg Malkary says in an interview with IT Business Edge.

Nurses also would like to have a single device for voice, paging and email, as well as a means of prioritizing incoming communications. "In a nutshell, what's going on is communications is anything but unified in health care. The only way for nurses to communicate effectively is to carry many different devices on a belt," Malkary says. "Because multiple devices each carry critical and non-critical messages, there is no way to filter, manage and prioritize messages, so we have a mess."

For more about these findings:
- read the Spyglass Consulting press release (.pdf)
- have a look at this Health Data Management story
- check out this Q&A with Malkary in IT Business Edge