As demands and standards in care evolve, so too do the challenges faced by hospitals and Care Trusts as they work to update or replace obsolete critical care systems. For many, excess expenditure, disruption to patients and staff and the integration of new technology with 3rd party systems are considerable concerns.
However, as standards in care are refined, technology is becoming ever more central to care. Helping to reduce costs, increase accountability, optimise staffing and improve the quality of care available to patients, critical care systems are becoming ever more sophisticated – and effective.
As little as a decade ago, technology such as IP (Internet Protocol) seemed like a risky option to many Trusts.
Today, when smartphone and tablet ownership has never been greater and a new generation of care providers fill wards and boardrooms, systems that can work with smarter networks such as IP, and adapt to modern user behaviour, are not only desirable, but beneficial.
Despite this, it remains vital the industry commits to designing a 21st century nurse call system that can be moulded into an integrated tool without compromising the basic functionality – which is, of course, patient care.
Trusts are now looking to technology companies to help them solve problems and optimise key areas such as budgeting and staffing.
However, as a critical care tool at heart, a nurse call system needs to do more than that. It must not only be compliant with shifting safety measures (such as those laid out by the Health Technical Memorandum 08-03) but also keep up with changing guidelines issued by Government as a result of independent reports from institutions such as NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence).
Yet while full compliance with HTM08-03 guidelines is the main criterion, these systems should be developed with an eye on the ability to expand or adapt to the ever growing scope of available technology. That is to say, they should offer protection of investment by being adaptable to meet changes in operational standards – or as it is sometimes referred to – ‘future proofed’.
Further, with cost a determining factor for most Trusts, many are now relying on manufacturers of nurse call systems to develop solutions that are modular. In this way, those commissioning hospitals that may lack sufficient funding can develop a system on a ward-by-ward basis, with a view to utilising the basic core nurse call engine, and then rolling it out further in the future when funds are more available. Increasingly, systems are being designed that can work as a single module, and then be added to in order to increase the functionality. This in itself is a protected investment.
Technological integration as a tool for improving care
Working much like the nervous system of the human body, a hospital is reliant on the cohesion of multiple and pre-existing care systems to keep it running.
Although differing from hospital to hospital, a typical nurses’ station will house a number of screens or panels. These often include a staff base indicator, a fire alarm panel, a medical gas alarm, an intercom or camera (for allowing individuals in and out of a ward) and even, in some cases, blind and temperature controls.
For this reason, nurse call manufacturers need to design platforms that can offer a high level of customisation. To meet the omni-channel demands of carers, systems should be able offer a potential high level of integration with special needs 3rd party equipment (such as beds/mattresses, chair mats, blowpipes, pressure pumps, etc.) over a unified IP network. These can be integrated further into modern communication equipment such as smartphones and tablets (allowing for greater mobility for both staff and patients), alternative visual display panels (such as whiteboards) or even 3rd Party SIP communication systems.
Ultimately, system and interface integration leads to a significant reduction in overheads, as fewer dedicated terminals and displays are required. Trusts can also benefit from the more efficient use of space, and less desk furniture creates a cleaner working environment for the staff.
Of course, when undertaking this process it is important for manufacturers to design nurse call systems that accommodate the ever changing standards and guidelines in care. This not only benefits the Trust’s investment, but ensures the best possible standards in service are available to carers and patients alike, thus ensuring accountability. The development of simple software that is easily understandable – even to temporary staff – and is designed with clinicians in mind, is key to healthcare that is fit for the 21st century. By working with sites, staff and Trusts, nurse call system manufacturers can ensure technology that supports and adapts to shifting healthcare requirement is the norm in every hospital and the right of every patient.