Many of my conversations with health IT leaders at HIMSS19 a couple weeks ago centered on how health systems can control costs while their hospitals get busier and busier. Unfortunately, everyone agrees that this pressure will only increase as the country ages: People over 65 (the biggest consumers of healthcare resources) make up 13 percent of the U.S. population, but by 2030, that’s expected to increase to 18 percent. As Geriatric Nursing points out, the 40 million Americans over age 65 today will double to 80 million, or one-fifth of the country’s total population.
On top of those pressures, health systems are getting larger and covering more geographical area due to mergers and acquisitions. Many hospitals are meeting both challenges with centralized monitoring centers that provide 24/7 patient surveillance and tracking of vital signs. Historically used for high-acuity patients, centralized monitoring is now used in lower acuity areas as well, enabling onsite and offsite patient monitoring across a large medical system or multiple facilities via telemetry, sensors and high-definition cameras.
One health system at the forefront of this trend is Nemours Children’s Health, which relies on skilled paramedics to monitor patients in its Orlando hospital as well as patients 1,000 miles away in its Wilmington, Delaware, facility. The central hub acts as eyes and ears for 24/7 tracking of vital signs when a nurse is away from the bedside, and integrates data such as critical lab results from the patient’s electronic medical record. (Register for the HIStalk webinar to learn more about Nemours’ state-of-the-art Clinical Logistics Center.)
Other regional health systems here in Florida are consolidating care with specialized facilities, such as Women’s Services or freestanding Emergency Departments, to treat patients more efficiently. Of course, when you need to connect multiple facilities or have medics monitoring patients many miles away, the need for effective clinical communication becomes even more vital.
Previously, when hospitals were using legacy phones to communicate with caregivers on the unit floor, the Unit Secretary would need to send a fax to the telemetry room once or twice a day with a list of who was carrying which phone on each shift. Bottlenecks in communication were common as medics in the telemetry room struggled to reach the nurse caring for a particular patient, or contact a nurse who was available and on the floor when a patient need would arise.
Another drawback with legacy phones was that communication was limited primarily to voice calls. A nurse caring for a patient or having a conversation with the patient’s family might be interrupted by a constantly ringing phone in his or her pocket. Without a way to know whether or not the call was urgent, the nurse had to interrupt patient care to take every call from the telemetry room. By contrast, when health systems combine centralized monitoring with a powerful communication platform such as Voalte Platform, medics can see at a glance who is available on the unit floor, and can easily reach out via text message or alert directly to a caregiver who is able to respond immediately.
When combined with today’s most powerful handheld devices, such as the Zebra TC51-HC mobile computer, nurses are equipped with a whole toolbelt’s worth of valuable tools, such as an EMR app for barcode medication administration, a unified directory to view a particular patient’s care team, and a one-tap feature to send a group text message.
Whether consolidating communication tools, consolidating specialized services or consolidating patient monitoring, health systems are exploring many options to provide the best possible care while also controlling costs. Please reach out to me to learn how Voalte can help.
JB Leeming is Area Sales Manager at Voalte.