Mobile devices, apps increase nurse job satisfaction, productivity

Healthcare systems are deploying mobility applications to improve the quality of patient care and increase nurse efficiency.

By increasing efficiency, mobility applications are also driving up job satisfaction, which is critical for retaining nurses during a nursing shortage, said Trey Lauderdale, vice president of Innovation at IT vendor Voalté.

An increased workload is being compounded by the facilities trend of moving patients to private rooms. Instead of four patients in two rooms, nurses are now dealing with four patients in four rooms, resulting in less patient visibility, more time spent walking and less time on patients, and decreased communication, Lauderdale pointed out.

The number one root cause of sentinel events - events that can't be overturned - is a breakdown in communication, according to the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Smart phones and their applications can remedy this problem, Lauderdale said. Voalté's application provides the core infrastructure that integrates Voice over IP, messaging and critical care alerts, he said. The application acts as a "traffic cop," coordinating communication among disparate devices, he said. "We see ourselves as the catalyst to build the application and tie in the application to really leverage the mobile device at the point of care," he said.

"In order to optimize communication, we need to take ownership of Voice over IP, text messages and alarms. By coordinating all three, we can optimize the workflow and be more efficient," Lauderdale said.

By being more efficient, nurses can spend more time taking care of patients, which increases job satisfaction and helps with retention, he said. "Nurses are unbelievably important at the point of care. If you give them better tools, they can impact patient safety and care," he said. Providing state-of-the-art technology such as iPhones and eschewing legacy devices helps with nurse adoption and satisfaction, Lauderdale said.

Voalté's application went live at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida in June 2009. The nurses at Sarasota have "embraced the technology" and have provided "great feedback," according to P.J. Floyd, associate chief nursing officer at Sarasota.

It's important to provide "fun and friendly" training and a high level of customer support, Lauderdale emphasized. Voalté's application, which was designed with the help of nurses and clinicians, has evolved through end user feedback.

The application will go live at two other hospitals at the end of the year, Lauderdale said. "The momentum behind smart phones is unbelievable." In the last 16 months, approximately 700 medical applications have been developed for the iPhone, according to Lauderdale. "The industry and market is ready for applications at the point of care," he said.