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News archive - January 2019

More than bells and buzzers

More than bells and buzzers

Hospitals may be notoriously slow in the uptake of innovative technology, but nurse call system manufacturers are reporting a significant increase in demand for telecare-style systems, driven by the increasing use of ‘wearable’ technology and common IP platforms.

Not only are these innovations helping to keep patients safe and improve the patient experience; but the changes are also being driven by greater industry focus on task management.

Phil Wade of Static Systems explains: “More and more hospitals are recognising the vital role that technology and data collection can play in assisting nursing staff and supporting teams in their daily tasks. 

“Nowadays, alarms, voice communication, diagnostic information, patient services and other important data can all be integrated into nurse call systems with relative ease.”

In acute hospitals, in particular, systems are being integrated with a variety of other specialist solutions and devices.

David Hewitt of Courtney Thorne explains: “Nurse call systems are increasingly being expected to do much more than just summon someone to the bedside.

“We are being asked to include features such as fall detection and movement detection so you can identify patterns in behaviour that may indicate a problem.

“You can even integrate access control solutions to prevent someone from leaving a specific space, or alerting a member of staff that they have done so.”

As solutions become increasingly wireless; sensors can be placed on a person, or around a room, reporting vital data back to staff.

A new generation

Paul Lawrence, managing director of Ascom, said: “Smarter technologies are now much more available and can be easily integrated into a nurse call system. This includes intelligent sensors to provide opportunities to improve carers’ workflows, reduce alarm fatigue, and provide more information to enhance the quality of care provided, as well as  data for preventative and predictive care, rather than reactive care.”

Courtney Thorne’s Altra Health range is an example of this new generation of technology.

It utilises smart mobile technology to provide a wireless system that combines radio frequency technology with Bluetooth and WiFi.

In addition to traditional call buttons (Altra Call), pull cords (Altra Pull), and bathroom/toilet pull cords (Altra Assist); the range also includes wireless pressure mats and floor sensors as well as the ‘Altra Wear’ pendant that can be worn on residents’ and patients’ wrists or carried on a lanyard around their necks.

The pendant combines multiple sensors and a digital microphone to detect a fall and send a location signal to the touchscreen at the nursing station.

And the central ‘Altra Touch’ unit collects call data, response times, and call duration information to aid with management and planning of staffing levels and to generate accountability and evidencing reports.

Hewitt said: “Using the data you can see if a person is having more falls or if their behaviour is changing. This could mean their mobility is getting worse or they have another medical problem.”

In the future the use of sensors within nurse call systems is expected to increase significantly.

Already bedside vital signs technology can be integrated so that alarms can be sent directly to nursing staff if a patient’s condition worsens.

And two-way speech facilities using VoIP mobile telephony allow patients and staff to converse.

Patients are even being given control over their immediate environment as nurse call is routinely integrated with lighting, blinds, heating and entertainment functions.

Due to the speed with which organisations are adopting additional nurse call features; Courtney Thorne is adding extra functionality to the inside of units so it can make them active as soon as hospital demand increases.

Overcoming barriers

Speaking at the recent mental health & dementia facilities forum; Hewitt told hdm: “Because we have a control at every bedside, nurse call companies are in a position to provide extremely-important information from every bedhead.”

The only barrier currently, he added, is cost.

“If more hospitals and care homes adopt this technology and realise the benefits then we can reduce the cost of the systems and vastly improve outcomes,” Hewitt said.

Lawrence said that, in the future, systems will continue to evolve to offer more and more functionality.

He added: “In care and residential homes nurse call design will move away from looking clinical and will instead become part of the home environment.

“And, in hospitals and care homes, they will continue to integrate with mobile devices to ensure that staff receive messages and alarms where ever they are.

“In the coming  years we will undoubtedly see the removal of standard nurse call units and a clear move towards more wearable devices and smart sensors.”

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