The digital Swiss Army knife of the hospital ward


By Jane Allman
Thursday, 08 April, 2021

The digital Swiss Army knife of the hospital ward

Technology is revolutionising the hospital environment, making it more efficient and safer for healthcare workers and patients.

With the right technology, nurses and doctors can be relieved of elements of their roles that can be frustrating and time-consuming, taking attention away from the core patient-centric elements of their work. When no longer burdened by inefficient and outdated communication systems, care-giving roles can be transformed, resulting in improved physical and mental health of staff and better patient focus.

The Manager of Wavelink’s Connected Health platform, Alan Stocker, demonstrated just how impactful technology can be in facilitating an efficient and productive care environment at this year’s Australian Healthcare Week. The Connected Health platform puts a plethora of resources — once spread across numerous machines and locations within a hospital — into a nurse or doctor’s pocket via a Spectralink Versity clinical smartphone device.

The rugged, purpose-built Android device is designed for the demanding hospital environment. Physically, it is built to withstand drops onto hard surfaces, harsh cleaning chemicals and operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. At the start of a shift, staff members can use their ID badge to log onto the device, which automatically accesses the apps required for that person. At the end of their shift, they hand the device back in, keeping it in constant rotation.

Versity smart devices can link via apps directly to the EMR, allowing easy retrieval of patient information such as prescribed medications or diagnostics. The barcode on a patient’s wristband can be scanned to instantly pull up their patient record.

Purpose-built applications allow the system to be adapted to suit the specific needs of healthcare facilities, with the ability to incorporate telehealth, hands-free voice, clinical communications, patient alarms and alerts, or any other integration that is required. Remote video consultations are possible, meaning that doctors do not have to attend the bedside in all situations.

Apps such as call reference guides, drug calculation tools and staff rostering are very useful to nurses on the move.

“There are some surprising features of the device that nurses love as part of doing their jobs, such as the torch. This comes in handy in numerous situations during a shift,” Stocker said. “When it comes to the apps, the hospital decides what it wants to use. I spoke with a children’s hospital who found a unique use case for our devices playing YouTube Kids, which nurses and doctors can use to distract a young child during a procedure. It’s all about improving efficiency and making nurses’ and doctors’ lives easier.”

Alleviating burden

Nurses spend a high percentage of their shifts walking — going between patients, sourcing information, assisting other staff, finding medication, speaking to family members, etc. Connected Health’s system has been designed to take some of the weight off nurses’ shoulders via its patient-monitoring capabilities. Any smart machine can be integrated into the system, including beds and IV machines, which will deliver an alarm to the right staff member allocated to the patient room, with escalations if unanswered. Rather than a generic nurse call, which could relate to anything from a patient being in pain to feeling a bit hungry, different colour-coded alarms specify when certain tasks should be actioned. A patient may have stepped out of bed when they shouldn’t, or might need their IV changing — the nurse is provided with the context of the situation so he or she can take appropriate action, and tasks that do not involve clinical care can be triaged to other hospital staff.

“With alarms being delivered to dedicated response groups, we can remove other noisy, ineffective alert tools such as overhead paging and nurse call alerts that go to every nurse on a ward,” Stocker explained. “We want to deliver the right alerts to the right person at the right time, whilst promoting a silent care environment where patients can recover without constant interruption, and staff members only receive alarms and alerts that are relevant to them and their patients.”

Enhancing safety

Safety is an important consideration in the design of the device, from a human and network perspective. All applications featured on the Connect Health device are approved to ensure that the device is secure.

From a personal physical safety perspective, a dedicated alarm button on the smartphone device triggers an alarm in a duress situation or to alert staff to an emergency care assist scenario.

ACT Health has a fleet of Versitys, which deliver the many benefits of a Connected Health platform across their team. ACT Health introduced the devices to reduce the complexity caused by having multiple communication platforms. While some units used intercoms, others used two-way radios and some staff members used pagers, which meant they needed to find a wall phone every time they received a page. There was no enterprise-wide communication platform, nor was there a unified fleet of devices that could be easily managed.

In early 2020, ACT Health implemented a rapid rollout of Spectralink Versity smartphones in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — to minimise the risk of coronavirus cross-contamination and infection in Canberra Hospital’s intensive-care unit (ICU) and to streamline the workflows of ward staff.

Unlike consumer devices, Spectralink Versity devices can reduce the risk of cross-contamination and infection because they are designed to withstand hospital-grade cleaning agents. This means the handsets can be thoroughly cleaned between each use, eliminating bacteria and viruses that may have otherwise remained on the device. Because the devices can be so reliably cleaned, patients can also use them to communicate with relatives who aren’t able to visit them due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“Each nurse carries a Spectralink Versity smartphone, connecting them to their colleagues and the outside world without creating a contamination risk,” ACT Health Chief Nursing and Midwifery Information Officer Rebecca Heland said. “Staff members have access to the apps they need to work effectively and efficiently at their fingertips whilst wearing gloves, without the need to continuously change the PPE required.

“The Spectralink Versity phones offer this capability and, because we have a fleet of devices with interchangeable batteries and charging stations, this has made managing the devices day to day very simple,” Heland said.

After originally purchasing 2000 Versity smartphones, ACT Health has recently supplemented the fleet with additional devices for use in its COVID-19 vaccination program. The integrated barcode scanner on the Versity is used to scan the vaccine dose and update the patient record as part of the vaccination process, removing the need for manual updates into a separate computer.

Images courtesy of Wavelink.

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