Mock disaster. Real response.

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April 22nd, 2014

Voalte@SMH-23_Retouch_V1Last week, Sarasota Memorial Hospital participated in a mass-casualty emergency drill planned by Sarasota County Emergency Management. The drill began with a simulated plane crash at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. Dozens of volunteer “patients” were transported by ambulance to the hospital, feigning injuries such as smoke inhalation and burns.

I was invited to observe the drill as it unfolded at Sarasota Memorial, to see how Voalte smartphones could help bring order amid the chaos of a mass-casualty event. Since 2008, Voalte has been fortunate to count on our local hospital as a development partner. Only a few miles from our Sarasota, Florida, headquarters, Sarasota Memorial is committed to using the latest in healthcare technology, including mobile communication tools like Voalte One™ and Voalte Me™. In fact, Sarasota Memorial was the first hospital in the country to equip physicians and administrators with Voalte Me so they can communicate seamlessly both inside and outside the hospital.

Voalte@SMH-25At last week’s drill, I shadowed four Emergency Department nurses as they set up a triage unit in the parking garage across the street from the hospital’s Emergency entrance. Public safety officials guided “victims” through a decontamination shower before sending them on to triage, where the nurses assessed their condition. Despite the challenging Wi-Fi environment of the parking garage, nurses were able to use Voalte One to send text messages to colleagues in the Emergency Department, alerting them when patients were on the way. The potential for using Voalte One and Voalte Me in future drills and real-life emergency situations is enormous.

Voalte@SMH-29“The sky is the limit,” says Janet Steves, Director of Nursing Resources at Sarasota Memorial. “Now that we can communicate anywhere inside or outside the building, we can send a group text message calling in physicians and send an internal message alerting everyone inside the hospital of a mass casualty event. Everyone logged in to Voalte receives the message, and encryption ensures the communication stays secure.”

Like hospitals throughout the country, Sarasota Memorial participates in these and other drills regularly. As last week’s training concluded, the team of safety officers, emergency medical technicians and clinicians gathered to discuss what they learned and identify opportunities to improve their response in a real event. As I listened in, I felt confident that my local hospital is doing all it can to ensure the community’s well-being. As a member of the Voalte team, I felt proud that we’re doing our part to help doctors, nurses and support staff provide the best possible care.

Making tough choices easier.

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March 27th, 2014

Money SqueezeIn yesterday’s story in mHealth News,mHealth’s great untapped potential: Nurses,” Editor Eric Wicklund cites a new report by Spyglass Consulting, which found: “42 percent of hospitals still rely on pagers, overhead paging systems or landline phones for their nurses, even though 67 percent have nurses who are already using their own smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow.”

I agree it’s a problem to have so many hospital nurses relying on ineffective, legacy communication systems. It’s also worrisome that so many of them are using unsecured personal phones to transmit patient information. Yet I think the Spyglass report also exposes a larger issue: Our hospital administrators are facing really tough choices about where to invest their capital dollars, especially in an increasingly challenging reimbursement environment. And those choices are even tougher based on the difficulty of trying to tease out the return on investment for technology investments.

Think about it: You or a loved one is a patient in pain. If your nurse can quickly send a text message to your physician requesting pain medication, isn’t there a huge value in receiving that medication 15 minutes sooner than if the nurse had to page the doctor and wait for a return phone call? We intuitively know quicker communication is an advantage for both patients and caregivers in such a scenario, even if that value is difficult to quantify.

As a hospital CIO for many years, I understand the dilemma of numerous competing projects vying for the same budget dollars. When presented with a new technology, such as a mobile communication system for nurses, the CIO must be able to explain to the CFO and other leadership how the system will pay for itself and why it’s worth the investment. Suggesting that time savings will translate to reduced head count, especially in nursing, is a naïve and impractical argument. Nurse staffing is already tightly managed to match patient acuity and control costs. What’s more valuable is providing nurses with tools that enable them to optimize their time and respond more quickly to patient needs.

More efficient workflows, better patient satisfaction scores, higher staff retention rates due to lower frustration levels, and improved patient safety thanks to more effective alarms and alerts are all positive impacts of a Mobile Communication Strategy. We in the mHealth industry need to partner with IT and nursing leadership to help them leverage investments in an “ecosystem” of technologies and networks that work together. By providing effective, affordable tools, we can assist nurses in the incredibly complex and important task of caring for their patients.

Take a look at Eric’s story in mHealth News, and let me know what you think about the recent report from Spyglass Consulting. I’ll look forward to reading your comments below.

Simple promises, powerful pledges.

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March 21st, 2014

photo 2Last week’s American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) conference was filled with enthusiasm and joy. The nursing leaders we met at the Voalte booth shared weather stories from all over the country, and many were glad to see the sunshine and feel the warmth of Orlando, Florida. Jazz bands played in the background while our colleagues visited a plethora of exhibits, from smart beds to voice dictation solutions for patient engagement and many other mobile technologies.

I had the chance to meet with one Director of Nursing from the Midwest. She shared her mobile communication needs and discussed her organization’s plans to improve safety, falls management and more. I was happy to see the nursing leaders from Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, who participated in a review course for the Nurse Leader Certification. These leaders are dedicated to our nursing profession, and it shows in their warmth, kindness and interest in pursuing certification.

It was great to see a few old friends as well: Darinda Sutton, CNO of Cerner’s Northeast Division, and Margie Sipes, a Nursing Performance Improvement Consultant in New England. They met the entire Voalte team and shared the work they are doing in their nursing leader roles. We even enjoyed an interesting and amazing visit with Florence Nightingale herself. Nancy Hilton, CNO at St. Lucie Medical Center in Florida, one of her nursing leaders, and author Joe Tye, CEO of Values Coach, truly embody the Florence Prescription and remind us of the importance of staff and patient experience in hospitals across the country. They handed out the 7 Simple Promises of the Self Empowerment Pledge:

  • Monday’s Promise: Responsibility
  • Tuesday’s Promise: Accountability
  • Wednesday’s Promise: Determination
  • Thursday’s Promise: Contribution
  • Friday’s Promise: Resilience
  • Saturday’s Promise: Perspective
  • Sunday’s Promise: Faith

This team wants to learn more about how these daily promises could be sent as group messages from our Voalte One smartphone. What a great way to engage the front line staff and share the pledge.

I’d like to personally thank the AONE team that organized this event for doing such a wonderful job. The networking and learning that took place was exceptional. If you attended last week’s event, please post a comment below to share what you learned. I would appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Making connections extraordinarily simple.

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March 12th, 2014

Voalte-7654At Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, something extraordinary is happening – doctors and nurses are communicating quickly and efficiently. And they’re doing it without multiple communication tools, without pagers and call-backs, and without wandering the halls to track down other care team members.

With roughly 4,000 employees and 800 physicians, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System encompasses 14 separate facilities throughout Sarasota County, from the main hospital campus to urgent care centers, rehabilitation services and outpatient surgery. Since 2009, this 806-bed medical center has led the way in mobile communication technology by using Voalte smartphones and text messaging to connect nurses inside the hospital.

Now, doctors and others working outside the hospital are in the loop too. Voalte Me™ extends the capabilities of Voalte One™ by connecting caregivers inside and outside the hospital walls, whether they are using shared devices or personal smartphones. Doctors can collaborate with nurses via cellular or Wi-Fi connections, send and receive secure text messages, and respond quickly no matter where they are.

“Voalte Me allows physicians to be more easily accessible to our nursing colleagues,” says Dr. Reuben W. Holland III, Medical Director of Emergency Departments and Urgent Care Centers at Sarasota Memorial. “I no longer have to be overhead-paged to receive an incoming call.”

With about 50 doctors up and running on Voalte Me, one of the greatest benefits is the ability to communicate quickly via text message. Protected health information is encrypted while in transit and at rest to ensure the hospital is in compliance with HIPAA privacy laws.

Doctors and nurses are impressed with how easy it is to locate other care team members. Doctors download the Voalte Me app, and within minutes they can connect to every other Voalte Me and Voalte One user via a central directory. Physicians are listed by unit or specialty, have access to everyone using Voalte Me or Voalte One, and can see at a glance whether those people are available or busy.

Given the healthcare industry’s history of cumbersome communication, the big news at Sarasota Memorial is how simple it is to get in touch with a doctor. No more call-backs, overhead paging, or walking the halls searching. Voalte Me makes it extraordinarily simple.

Please post a comment below and let me know how you’re connecting caregivers inside and outside your hospital. I’d love to hear how your solution is working for you.

Staff communication contributes to a healthy work environment.

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March 6th, 2014

e_01970I had the privilege to speak at the Florida Association of Enterostomal Therapists (FAET) conference last week in Gainesville, Florida. The event’s organizers did a commendable job of bringing together nurses from throughout the state to explore the themes: Unmasking Mysteries of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Care, and Discovering the Role of the WOC Clinician in Team Building.

I was inspired by many of the stories other speakers shared related to coaching nursing staff, helping patients in the community, and managing specific events in their respective hospitals. Staff engagement and skilled communication were hot topics, with clear connections to the AACN’s Healthy Work Environment standards. I couldn’t help but relate these discussions to the importance of building a strong Mobile Communication Strategy.

The hyper-connected hospital environment makes it essential to link the right people with the right information at the right time. Wound and Ostomy nurses in particular work with an overwhelming number of clinicians on a daily basis, so they need an easy way to connect with physicians, physical therapists, nurses, surgeons and care managers.

As the first component of a complete Mobile Communication Strategy, connecting caregivers inside the hospital can be accomplished effectively with Voalte One™. Using shared smartphones, caregivers connect with each other, receive alarms and alerts, and even access electronic medical records and barcode scanners, all on one device.

At last week’s FAET conference, my presentation on “Teambuilding in the 21st Century: Practices to Achieve Healthcare Outcomes” identified ways to provide effective communication, collaboration and alignment strategies. Introducing intrinsic motivators, a culture of ownership and inspiration that starts with being inspired yourself were a few of the primary messages I discussed with this highly engaged group. We closed the discussion with the top ten attributes of high-performing teams and measures of success.

Remember, it takes everyone to provide the best possible care and experience. Please recognize the work of our Wound and Ostomy nurses and the difference they make every day. I’d love to hear from you too. Please post a comment below on how you work to keep the teamwork alive in your hospital.