Shh! Quiet fortifies care coordination

"I can understand why patients were angry. I was going crazy."
By Eric Wicklund
08:06 AM
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Inspira Health

Noise pollution is rampant in many hospitals. Take the overhead paging system, for instance. It's enough to make clinicians and patients mad.

While paging systems enable physicians and nurses to reach colleagues-on-the-go in the span of a few minutes, they can also be as annoying as a bullhorn. The constant noise sets patients' teeth on edge, interferes with conversations and hurts staff morale. In some instances it might even affect clinical outcomes, by harassing a doctor or patient enough to forget or overlook something.

The Inspira Health Network, a three-hospital system based in Bridgeton, N.J., which reaches out to more than 60 healthcare endpoints, recently undertook a Quiet Hospital Initiative. The goal was to reduce the estimated 150 overhead pages a day, improve patient satisfaction and staff morale, and find a better way for clinicians to communicate and share data in real time.

The obvious technology to pursue that goal? Smartphones, says Inspira CIO Thomas J. Pacek.

"Everyone already has one," Pacek adds. "They use it all the time for personal reasons."

After considering other types of pagers and even a badge system, Pacek and Inspira chose a secure messaging platform from Practice Unite.

Working with Practice Unite and Pursuit Healthcare Advisors, Inspira officials established a system whereby doctors and nurses could text each other securely through an app, or send a message to a colleague's extension that would trigger a callback.

The auditable system not only helped reduce noise and improve communications in the three hospitals, it also enabled better communications with the system's 150 residents and medical offices.

Getting buy-in from residents and outlying clinics was a key factor in the project's success.

"They don't comply with anything you want them to do," Pacek half-joked. "So we needed an easy and compliant solution that they would like. It was critical that we get their buy-in."

Inspira isn't the first health system to switch to a mobile messaging platform, but it's a nice example of what providers are doing nowadays to not only boost care coordination, but improve the hospital environment.

Pacek says the platform is now mandatory for medical staff, and overhead pages are only allowed in emergencies. That averages out to about two pages per day; Inspira's chief medical officer checks the audit log on a regular basis and discusses each page with staff.

There are other benefits as well. Response times and patient consults have improved, the electronic medical record is updated more frequently and patient stays are reduced.

The platform has also been adopted by affiliated medical offices, in some instances replacing their answering services with the system's own operators, which cuts expenses and frees up time in the doctors' offices.

Staff morale has improved and patient satisfaction rates have risen as well, Pacek says, though it's too early in the Quiet Hospital Initiative to see those conclusions confirmed in statistics.

"A lot of the challenge for deploying secure texting lies in adoption," says Practice Unite CEO Adam Turinas. "This is a complicated platform – it can be as complex as deploying an EHR. It needs a lot of planning. Using something like the Quiet Hospital Initiative is a great way to start" because it's tied into a quick and understandable outcome.

For Pacek, that outcome hit home because he remembers constantly getting interrupted by noisy pages before the Quiet Hospital Initiative began.

"I can understand why the patients were angry," Pacek recalls. "I was going crazy. 

This article originally appeared on Healthcare IT News sister site mHealth News.