Published in the December 2009 issue of Today’s Hospitalist
WHAT IF PATIENTS COULD CALL FOR HELP without setting off buzzers and alarms “and without a parade of nursing staff coming to the room to see exactly what patients need? That’s the thinking behind the ProNet.net Nurse Call System, which aims to not only make inpatient care less noisy, but to help make nursing care more efficient.
When patients push the nurse call button, the system turns on a light above their door. The call can be forwarded to nurses’ pagers or a computer answer terminal where a dispatcher talks to the patient, figures out what the patient needs and then routes that request to the right provider. When nursing staff enter the patient room, the system detects who has responded ” through censors in each nurse’s badge “and cancels the call.
The system not only helps tamp down noise in busy inpatient environments, but helps triage calls, delivering the right caregiver to the right patient at the right time.
"A dispatcher can actually talk to the patient and relay the person’s exact need to a caregiver," says Ann Kowal, president of Special Care Systems LLC, a firm in Webster, N.Y., that installs the nurse call system in hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. (The system was developed by Intego Systems Inc.) "You don’t have an aide going in when the patient is pushing a button for a pain medication and needs a nurse instead."
The electronic call system also tracks how long it takes nursing staff to respond to calls, which can help hospitals improve nursing staffing, response time and patient satisfaction. Ms. Kowal says that at one hospital where the system has been installed, nurses on different units use reports generated by the system to compare call times with each other.
The system can process alerts from other wireless technologies and communication devices within the hospital, such as bed exit alarms that alert staff when patients are about to leave their beds. Instead of activating an alarm that everyone hears, the system can page nurses working on that unit.
What do nurses think of the fact that their work is being monitored? Ms. Kowal says at first, some are suspicious. But they quickly realize that the system is tracking only their response time to calls.
"Besides," she adds, "the system helps make sure that work flow is being evened out, and that’s something nurses appreciate."