Historically, hospital IT and Nursing departments have been separated by a figurative wall, with the IT team deploying new technologies without inviting input from nurses. This divide is probably why I see drawers full of discarded legacy phones and voice badges when I visit hospitals. It’s difficult for the technical team to anticipate end users’ needs if they don’t fully understand their clinical workflows or how the new tools will impact patient care.
Fortunately, this started to change with the evolution of the electronic medical record (EMR) in the early 1990s. That’s when nurses who had an interest in using new technologies to advance clinical processes launched the field of nursing informatics. Today, the American Nursing Informatics Association (ANIA) identifies itself as “Where caring and technology meet.” I had the pleasure of attending their national conference in Orlando last week, and it was clear these specialized nurses are dedicated to both the best technologies and the highest quality of patient care.
According to a 2017 Nursing Informatics Workforce Survey by HIMSS, Nurse Informaticists play a crucial role in the development, implementation and optimization of clinical applications. This is definitely true in regards to communication solutions, where Nurse Informaticists are strong champions for not only implementing smartphones for care team communication but also ensuring that alarm management, clinical workflows and operational processes are optimized with the new devices.
Let’s face it, sending an alert from a monitor to a communication device is nothing new. And text messaging is so pervasive in most people’s lives that texting is not revolutionary either. The real power of a comprehensive communication solution such as Voalte Platform isn’t in just getting a nurse call to beep on a smartphone. The true value comes from sending an alert that includes specific information about what the patient needs, such as pain medication, to an available nurse’s smartphone. The nurse receives the request immediately, finds the correct provider in the directory, and makes a quick call or sends a text message to discuss placing an order.
This ability to quickly close the communication loop also plays a key role in alarm management as well. To meet National Patient Safety Goals, health systems need to commit to more efficient handling of alarm and alert notifications, without creating alarm fatigue for their staff. Whereas nurses previously would receive a V-tach alert to a pager, now they can get an alert with a streaming waveform on their smartphone. Armed with all the necessary information, nurses respond quickly to the patient, then immediately reach the rest of the care team via group text message to ensure the patient receives appropriate attention.
Nurse Informaticists are playing a major role in streamlining processes and automating traditionally inefficient workflows, and are generating valuable data in the process. Robert Altiero, BSN, Director of Clinical Information Systems Analysts at Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, provides one example, with a patient throughput and bed management initiative that integrates Voalte smartphones and automated workflows to expedite the discharge process. When a provider enters a discharge order in the electronic medical record (EMR), a notification is sent automatically to the nurse’s and case manager’s smartphones, letting them know an order has been entered.
With flu season coinciding with the busy tourist season here in Florida, Sarasota Memorial is using this new workflow to ensure that patients who are well enough to go home aren’t delayed because the nurse isn’t aware of a discharge order. At the same time, sick patients in the Emergency Department can move more rapidly to available beds, improving throughput throughout the hospital.
This blending of “caring and technology” will continue to improve as nurses become more involved in the selection and implementation of new technologies. In addition to better patient experiences, we should also see fewer devices taking up space in drawers.
JB Leeming is Area Sales Manager at Voalte.