Technology is playing an ever more important role in the hospital environment in the drive to improve care standards and the patient experience
Technology is playing an ever more important role in the hospital environment in the drive to improve care standards and the patient experience.
Nurse call systems have always played an important role, which is becoming more vital in light of the trend in the acute sector towards single bedded rooms.
For many years, the ubiquitous nurse call button has been found at the head of every bed in the acute setting – allowing patients to alert a nurse or other health care staff member remotely of their need for help. However, advances in communication technology now allow these traditionally simple devices to offer far more than was previously possible. Consequently, hospitals need to be aware of all the advantages that state-of-the-art nurse call technology can offer when looking at installing a new system.
It is vital to consider the long-term potential benefits of a nurse call system as well as its initial cost. Could your chosen platform integrate new technologies, management systems and communication methods? If so, it could help to facilitate a cost-effective future-proofing strategy.
The Internet Protocol (IP) was first developed in the 1970s and is now a well- proven technology that forms the primary network protocol used on the Internet.
Indeed, the fact that so many new-build hospitals are now being specified with IP-based communication system solutions indicates the extent to which its benefits are now accepted in the healthcare environment and it is proving that it is able to offer integration benefits that allow for the cost-effective future-proofing of hospital estates.
Systems that support IP, standard network protocols, and topologies to transmit data across networks, can offer the most reliable and cost-effective option for mission critical healthcare communications.
Today’s IP-based nurse call systems can now become part of a wider integrated healthcare system, allowing a host of information from individual beds and/or wards to be centrally administered and controlled by the estates department, where a single terminal can monitor the whole site. Terry Boarer, IPiN technical manager at Wandsworth, sums up the benefits that this can offer:
“IP offers centralised control and administration of both the nurse call system and any other IP-based systems in use in the hospital environment. This allows all the IP-based systems to be maintained to a higher level, from a central point.
“Employing an IP-based nurse call system allows these, traditionally simple systems, to become a far more useful tool, offering benefits for the patient, clinical staff and the estates department.”
Integrating an IP-based nurse call system with other IP-based environment control systems, for example, will give the patient greater control of their own environment, which can improve their hospital experience. It also frees clinical staff from having to attend to so many non-clinical requests from patients.
Importantly, having a centralised system also enables the estates department to maintain their nurse call system with more effectiveness and efficiency, because it will be notified immediately in the event of a communications point failure, helping to avoid situations where patient care is put at risk. This capability also greatly decreases the need for estates staff to undertake routine maintenance checks, offering maintenance cost-savings.
Key to achieving all of these benefits is the integration of the nurse call system with other data and communication systems and IP provides the perfect solution, offering a common communication infrastructure that can run throughout the hospital and which can be shared by a huge variety of different IP-based systems.
Due to its flexible nature, an IP-based system will offer modularity so can be developed in phases, as clinical and/or estates needs change, and as the budget allows. This means that the system can provide much greater flexibility over the long-term and can be cost-effectively and simply re-routed, extended, or repurposed as and when required.
The long-term opportunities should also be a considered when specifying a new system. One of the main barriers to the greater implementation of state-of-the-art technology is its initial cost – this short-term mentality needs to change if the healthcare environment is to reap the benefits offered by technology – enabling greater system flexibility and integration with new technologies as they emerge.
HTM 08-03, which governs all hospital bedhead services, including nurse call systems, also needs to be considered when choosing a new system. These guidelines call for the selection of a flexible system. A modular IP-based solution has the required flexibility, with the ability to be expanded and adapted as needs change.
“The use of a modular, IP-based system, will also help protect the original investment. New systems can be added to the existing set-up with just a small additional cost, allowing for both backwards and forwards compatible system growth, helping users to evolve their system at a pace to suit their changing needs and their budget,” concludes Terry Boarer.