Last week, ECRI published its Top Ten Hospital C-Suite Watch List for 2015. Third on the list is Alarm Middleware and how it can help hospitals comply with The Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal on clinical alarms, which took effect in 2014. One statement in the report caught my attention – which describes how middleware “can revolutionize alarm management and notification”.
This is a very strong statement coming from a well-respected organization such as ECRI. And to me this signifies a definite shift in how our industry is thinking about the real challenge of reducing alarms. ECRI acknowledges that managing alarms is very complex and the C-Suite report goes on to state that “middleware may be a critical part of how your hospital responds to the NPSG”. Up until now most trusted industry sources involved with alarm fatigue have been taking a softer stance and basically saying that middleware might be able to play a role. This represents a distinct shift in positioning and a turning point for the alarm management market.
The ECRI also does a good job of describing how Voice over IP (VoIP) phones, Wi-Fi phones, and smartphones can turn a complex alerting process into a simple one by leveraging the critical functions of middleware. However, from our direct experience, there is a significant trend here that is mostly downplayed by the report. The trend towards caregivers using smartphones started a few years ago with the early adopters. The early adopters deployed smartphones mainly for secure messaging, driven by the ease in messaging with colleagues – much the same way we all are doing this in our personal lives. But also there was a subset of those hospitals that added alerts and alarms to augment the secure text messaging-based communications.
Now we are clearly seeing smartphones come into the mainstream. It used to be that most hospitals recognized that smartphones were on their planning horizon. Now, virtually all of our discussions with hospitals are centered on smartphone deployments and most projects are much more immediate. In addition, many pilots are immediately converting to house-wide deployments.
One key aspect that should not be overlooked is many hospitals cannot afford to spend millions to instantly switch from legacy VoIP phones to smartphones. If this resonates with your hospital then ask your vendor how they can enable a seamless transition over time from legacy phones to smartphones. Many of your legacy VoIP phones can be redeployed to other workers such as techs, aids, housekeeping, etc. and smartphones used by nursing can still communicate via messaging and voice with all the redeployed legacy phones.
One thing is for certain, smartphones are now being deployed in large numbers and this trend is only going to accelerate much the way it did in the consumer world. Going back to where this article began, it is now becoming very clear that when deploying smartphones, hospitals will realize both immediate and long-term benefits if an evaluation of technology also includes a requirement that your vendor can provide a single solution that will prioritize alarms, alerts, and messaging within a single application and platform.
Where does your hospital stand in the process? We are always here to answer questions and to help put a complete plan together.
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