Tag: Rhonda Collins

Using Mobile Technology to Increase Workplace Safety in Hospitals

By Rhonda Collins, chief nursing officer, Vocera Communications.

Rhonda Collins
Rhonda Collins

Hospitals should be places of healing and safety for providers, patients and guests. Yet hospital employees are four times more likely to experience a violent encounter in a hospital than in any other location.1 According to studies cited in a 2016 review paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, 80 percent of emergency medical workers experience violence during their careers. Seventy-eight percent of ED physicians in the U.S. reported having been the target of workplace violence in the previous year, and 40 percent of psychiatrists reported they had been physically assaulted.2

To mitigate violence and protect staff, experts advise hospitals to form an addiction conflict and substance use disorder team, initiate healthcare-specific training on the management of aggressive behavior, and establish a strategic management assessment response team. In many hospitals, security personnel lead these initiatives and team up with local police, as well as department leaders throughout the hospital.

All of these programs are good recommendations, but in the moment when an armed individual invades the hospital or someone already in the hospital threatens care team members, how can hospital staff respond to minimize violence, protect themselves and others and get help fast from security personnel or police? The answer lies in the right communication system.

In some institutions, the use of mobile communications technology has helped reduce the amount of time required for security to respond to violence or aggression. For example, staffers in some hospitals wear hands-free communication badges to connect quickly and directly to internal security officers when an incident of violence begins or appears likely.

At the emergency department of Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y., any ED staff member can use such a badge to summon university police and public safety officers in the event of a violent encounter or other emergency. In many cases, this can be faster than making a phone call. A peer-reviewed study found that this approach reduced average security response times from 3.2 minutes in the six months before the badges were adopted to 1.02 minutes in the six months after use began.3 

Michael Garron Hospital in the Toronto East Health Network used a similar system to reduce the time it takes security officers to get to the scene of an incident from an average of 2 ½ minutes to 59 seconds. Besides enabling a badge user to contact security personnel quickly, the device can also alert people outside the hospital and act as a real-time locator if a staff member can’t say where he or she is located.4 

A “panic button” system can also be harnessed to help police pinpoint the exact location in a hospital where a violent incident is occurring. For example, in 2014, an armed intruder threatened nurses in Halifax Health Medical Center, a large hospital in Daytona Beach, Florida. They were able to use their clinical communication system, which has a panic feature, to broadcast a special beep that alerted other clinicians and hospital security about the rapidly evolving incident and where in the facility it was taking place. As a result, an ED security officer was able to guide arriving police directly to the site on the hospital’s second floor where the man with the gun was located.5 

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How Mobile Device Policies Must Focus on Controlling Contamination

Rhonda Collins

Guest post by Rhonda Collins, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer of Vocera.

Studies show that cell phones can carry more bacteria than a toilet seat. This is a disturbing topic for anyone, but should be duly noted by those of us in healthcare. With hospital cell phone policies changing, it’s crucial that we focus on infection control as a priority for any mobile communication device in the hospital. A Spyglass Consulting Group survey revealed that regardless of a hospital’s device policy, staff nurses are using personal smartphones to support clinical communications and workflow. In addition, a whopping 51 percent of hospitals plan to invest in or evaluate their smartphone solutions over the next 18 months.

This movement toward a more mobile healthcare workforce is an exciting change that will allow clinicians to become more connected to both patients and colleagues. While this change will make a sizeable impact on the way that hospitals operate, devices that are surrounded by the sickest patients are of greater concern as they can transfer bacteria both to and from the patient. This poses potential harm to everyone in the environment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that one out of every 25 hospital patients contracts a healthcare-associated infection (HAI). This means that about 722,000 patients face hospital acquired infections annually. The most common HAI that hospitals are seeing today include pneumonia (22 percent), surgical site infections (22 percent), gastrointestinal infections (17 percent), urinary tract infections (13 percent) and bloodstream infections (10 percent), all urgent and uncomfortable situations that pose a major threat to patient safety.

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