Report Predicts Rapid Growth of Handheld Devices in Health Care

July 7, 2010 Topic: Outcomes in the News 

The total market for handheld devices in health care is expected to reach $8.8 billion in 2010, up by 7% from 2009, according to a report published last week by health care market research firm Kalorama Information, InformationWeek reports.

The report — titled “Handhelds in Healthcare: The World Market for PDAs, Tablet PCs, Handheld Monitors, & Scanners” — considered all handheld devices and made predictions for certain health care categories.

For example, the report found that total sales for patient-monitoring products reached $5.3 billion in 2009, accounting for 64% of the market share for handheld devices.

It also found that the administrative devices market — which includes PDAs, smart phones, tablet PCs and inventory/medication scanners — generated about $3 billion in 2009 for a market share of 36%.

The report identified several drivers of handheld device growth in the health care market, including:

  • An aging population;
  • Cost restraints;
  • Government incentives;
  • Medical error reduction initiatives; and
  • A shortage of medical professionals (Lewis, InformationWeek, 7/2).

The report also predicted that incentives from the 2009 federal stimulus package will continue to drive increased sales of handheld devices in the health care sector, noting that the incentives “are getting health care organizations to think about IT purchases, and they are helping to make the argument for better electronic data entry” (Byers, CMIO, 7/1).


Versus Helps Columbus Regional Recover From Devastating Flood

June 23, 2010 Topic: Outcomes in the News 

It pays to have vendors you trust. First Signal is proud to be a Versus vendor.

“The flood was devastating,” says Dave Lenart, P.E., Director of Facilities and Materials Management. Columbus Regional’s entire basement, containing much of the hospital’s medical and lab equipment was filled floor to ceiling with contaminated water, mud and silt. The first floor also sustained heavy damage from standing contaminated water and mud. Veronica Kagley, Technology Coordinator adds, “Every system critical to the support and operation of the hospital that was in the basement was destroyed.”

Initially, everyone believed it would be a year to two years before the hospital was back up and running — that’s what it had been for other hospitals that have sustained similar damage. “We’re one of only two hospitals within an hour’s drive from here,” Lenart explains. “A long recovery simply wasn’t an option. Our entire staff pulled together. We worked long hours and engineered what fixes we could. We re-opened our doors five months after the flood.” Columbus Regional’s outstanding achievements have been recognized by many, including Today’s Facility Manager, which honored Dave Lenart as the 2010 Facility Executive of the Year for his dedication, forethought and ingenuity during the cleanup and restoration process.

What may be surprising to some people is that insurance and FEMA only covered three quarters of the costs related to infrastructure and systems. “We were very blessed, though,” says Kagley. “We had many vendors, Versus included, offer to cut costs and do what they could to help bring our systems and services back online.” Today, the Versus solution is back, helping Columbus Regional’s staff automate patient flow throughout the facility.

Versus opted to provide the latest software viewing and reporting capabilities, with room and patient status, alerts and notifications (such as wait time alerts or notification that a patient has returned from radiology). “It was the right thing to do — provide Columbus Regional with the most current software version,” stated HT Snowday, CTO Versus. “They are now better prepared for enterprise expansion — something they were interested in before and this will make them more flexible as they continue to add other RTLS solution applications.” The Versus Advantages solution currently provides enterprise asset tracking and is integrated to Rauland-Borg’s Responder IV nurse call system.

“The value of the Versus system is not only inherent, but also perceived,” says Kagley. “It helps with patient satisfaction, and it was one of those systems that was missed that the staff really wanted back.” Columbus Regional had tremendous successes with the Versus solution when it was first implemented in 2005. For example, they reduced ED patient wait times by 63% and ensured equipment was available when and where it was needed. Columbus Regional also helped housekeepers and other staff members feel safer in their behavioral health units by giving them Versus badges, with the ability to call for assistance at any time. Staff receiving the alert knew who needed help and where that person was.

“There was never any doubt that we would bring the Versus Advantages solution back,” says Lenart. “Our staff relies on Versus for hands-free communication and location information. Versus eliminates the realm of uncertainty, so there’s no void in terms of location — no questioning.”


Tagging a Tot: Hospitals Embrace Infant Tracking Tech

June 10, 2010 Topic: Benefits & Outcomes, Outcomes in the News 

Fox News highlights some of the advantages of patient/infant tracking that several hospitals across the nation have begun to implement. If you would like more information on how this system can benefit your facility, Contact First Signal!


Nurses Find Simple Ways to Improve Satisfaction

June 1, 2010 Topic: Outcomes in the News 

Healthcare leadership is well aware that many tasks keep nurses away from the bedside. There are the obvious ones, such as documentation, collecting medications, and hunting equipment. And there are the not-so-obvious ones, such as answering phone calls from patients’ concerned relatives.

Although a relatively minor clinical concern in a nurse’s day, relatives tend to call to check on patients right when nurses are first beginning their shift, when they are trying to hear reports and check in on their patients for the day.

To make the process simpler, nurses at Chilton Memorial Hospital in Pompton Plains, NJ, decided to designate a specific time for relatives to call.

The decision is part of the organization’s larger Transforming Care at the Bedside initiative, says Joanne Reich, VP and chief nursing officer at Chilton. The TCAB initiative is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the New Jersey Hospital Association with a goal to improve the quality of care on medical/surgical units.

“Our emphasis is on nursing staff taking a critical look at their care environment and how they can increase their satisfaction and effectiveness in care delivery,” says Reich. “Nurses have many interruptions, so they have been working on increasing time at the bedside.”

Nurses began tracking the number of calls they were receiving from families of patients and discovered the calls used up a significant amount of time and called them are away from the bedside just as they had started assessing their patients or receiving reports.

Having a designated time for families allows patients and families to coordinate the best time in the morning for them to call. Nurses now can plan their mornings better. They can accomplish what they need to do at the start of the shift, and they can ensure they are ready with the information needed when they know the call is coming.

The change was supported by leadership and has worked very well. “Nursing leadership recognizes the leader within each nurse,” says Reich, “and that each nurse is a professional and can bring to the table what they feel works best.”

Nurses also revamped how patient call bells are treated. In a collaborative project with other disciplines, such as physical therapy and respiratory therapy, the hospital created a “no pass zone.”

“It’s a commitment by all of the staff that if patient call bell is lit, no one will pass that room,” says Reich, “without going in and introducing themselves and seeing what’s the patient needs.”

Often, the staff member will be able to help the patient, such as by refilling a water pitcher, which increases patient satisfaction. If the staff member can’t help, he or she quickly takes the issue to the patient’s nurse.

Reich says the next project nurses are tackling will examine patient environment. This more in-depth project requires consideration of different concepts and ideas to determine what is best for patients and what is needed to implement the ideas.

“They want to ensure the patient environment is prepared in the manner that works best for patients,” says Reich. “They’re examining if patients have what they need in the way of water, tissues, food tray, etc. Our goal continues to be providing quality, personalized care to each of our patients. “

[Nurses Find Simple Ways to Improve Satisfaction] via HealthLeaders


Smartphones save money and stave off staffing shortages, study finds

May 17, 2010 Topic: Outcomes in the News 

Outdated hospital communications systems — based on blaring PAs and multiple, often incompatible mobile devices –  are causing confusion, reducing efficiency, wasting money, and helping contribute to serious staffing shortages.

So say the findings of a white paper published today by Voalté, a Sarasota, Fla.-based developer of point-of-care communications software for iPhones and BlackBerry devices. “Smart Hospitals – Embracing Smartphones at the Point of Care” highlights communication inefficiencies within hospitals that cause confusion and reduce effectiveness. It concludes that smartphones offer a comprehensive and easy-to-adopt solution.

Researchers have found that ineffective communication wastes as much as $12 billion nationwide each year, and that frustrations with outmoded systems can lead to nurse dissatisfaction and, ultimately, exacerbate the hospital staffing shortage.

But “smartphones offer a solution to many of today’s healthcare communication issues,” the study finds. “With PC-like functionality and advanced capabilities, smartphones provide a single interface to make calls, send texts, manage schedules, organize tasks, view online literature, and receive alerts. Most clinicians are already familiar with smartphones and the devices easily integrate with hospital networks, providing a solid platform for application developers. Mobile healthcare applications allow physicians and nurses easy access to medical information, bringing faster, more informed decision-making to the point of care.”

For a typical, 500 bed, acute-care hospital, communication problems between physicians and nurses create an annual $4 million economic burden, the white paper reports, and often needlessly increase the length of hospital stays.

Worse, poor communications can adversely impact care. Noisy overhead paging systems can cause nurses to miss calls – particularly when working within patients’ rooms. In addition, most point-of-care staff are saddled with multiple devices – a nurse may carry a pager, PDA and a mobile phone, with each device providing specific functionality and generating its own alarms. The nurse can’t prioritize alarms according to criticality, so a pager buzzes the same tone when a patient wants ice or for a code blue alert.

Due in part to these inefficiency and communication problems, nursing dissatisfaction is on the rise. According to a recent study of 43,000 nurses from 700 hospitals, more than 40 percent of U.S. nurses reported being dissatisfied with their jobs – three to four times higher than the average worker.

The problem can be self-perpetuating, the study finds. “Nursing shortages and communication problems negatively impact patient safety and increase patient dissatisfaction.This in turn can affect a hospital’s overall rating and reputation, which can drive down HCAHPS and Press Ganey scores and directly impact a hospital’s ability to stay profitable and recruit talented staff.”

As smartphones grow increasingly feature-rich and easy-to-use, the devices offer a solution to many of these serious communication shortfalls.  Their functionality make them tantamount to “a miniature computer that combines phone, e-mail, texting, and Internet service.” And since they’re already in common use, the learning curve that usually occurs when new equipment is introduced to a workplace would prove minimal. (According to a study by Manhattan Research, 64 percent of U.S. physicians own smartphones and analysts predict penetration will increase to 81 percent by 2012).

[Smart Hospitals: Embracing Smartphones at the Point of Care] via Voalté

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