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Improving Point-of-Care Communication

September 6, 2011
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One hospital dumps its badge technology for a new solution

New technologies replace, and improve on, the old every day. Take Google scrapping its confusing Wave social media platform in favor of Google+. (We’ll see if Google+ will be able to hold out to its formidable foe Facebook). Apple revolutionized the MP3 player and extinguished the mini disk player. I had one of those. I thought I was so cool that I could listen to 2.5 hours of music at once, and then switch out another disk for even more music. The same goes for healthcare; more hospitals will inevitably replace carts on wheels (COWs) with tablets and mobile devices to improve point of care communication.

As a CIO, not only do you have to know when a technology isn’t cutting it within your facility, you have to be nimble enough to experiment alternative choices until your problem is solved. As Editor-in-Chief Mark Hagland points out in his September cover story on physician mobility, there are many challenges specifically swirling around nascent mobile technologies. Chief among the complexities that CMIOs and CIOs are pondering are whether the technologies should enable data review or data entry at the bedside, which devices should be used, and how best should they be integrated into clinician workflow.

Denis Baker, CIO of the 806-bed Sarasota Memorial Hospital, faced these same challenge when his organization’s mobile communications solution failed and he had to come up with an alternate solution to improve clinician to clinician communication.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s Story
Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Florida’s second largest acute-care public hospital, adopted communication badge technology about eight years ago and deployed 1,000 badges to nurses and other staff. After a while, many issues around device management and hardware support resulted on both the vendor’s side as well as the hospital’s side. The badges were considered disposable by the vendor, says Baker, and it didn’t provide any infrastructure for repairs and poor hardware support. Instead, the vendor relied on a reseller network to support repair. For instance, Baker says, if he sent the reseller 100 devices, only 20 would come back to be fixed. Once a badge would stop working, there was a tendency by nurses to stop using it and throw it in a drawer.

Soon ongoing utilization fell by the wayside, as Sarasota Memorial’s wireless network was showing its age, not being able to handle the added burden of data and VOIP capabilities. With high number of disconnects, nursing management eventually stopped supporting the badges, so utilization ground to a halt. Baker had to think of an alternative to shore up communication at the bedside.

Find out what technology Baker ended up employing at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in part-two of this blog.