Unified Communications That Boost the Patient Experience and Streamline Workflows for Hospital Staff
In the healthcare industry, technology has become a clinical tool. When people think of tools at a doctor’s disposal, many people think of a scalpel or stethoscope, but MRIs and X-ray machines are just as prevalent. And, increasingly, we in IT look at the communication tools with the same level of importance.
Done right, healthcare organisations select technology that will best serve their patients and their staff. This is our view at Galway Clinic, a state-of-the-art community-based hospital.
Due to high demand, our nearly 100-bed facility quickly grew to 146 beds staffed by more than 140 highly skilled physicians and surgeons covering a wide array of services, 24 hours a day. Our goal is to provide excellent care in Galway and the surrounding communities in the west of Ireland. We’ve introduced services previously unavailable in this region, such as radiotherapy, robotic surgery, and cardiac surgery.
Advanced Technology, Enhanced Patient Experience
We are passionate about how we make use of technology at the clinic. We have won numerous awards for how we deployed our fully comprehensive electronic medical record system. We’ve even become known as one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe when it comes to being an early adopter of new technologies to enhance the patient experience. Our technology system helps all of our clinicians do their jobs better, safer, and more efficiently.
We see technology as the core of the business, both from a patient-centred approach to the business operations of the hospital. But achieving that synchronicity can be easier said than done. Within a workplace culture, you need to get everyone on board. Using technology is core to our culture, but there’s always work to be done in its adoption.
An intergenerational workforce will, of course, have different levels of skill and technology adoption rates. Some will gravitate towards technology more freely than others. It took us some time to get everyone comfortable using technology as an integral part of our culture. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to getting buy-in to the organisation’s vision.
It takes time and it’s a unique journey for each individual—they need to see the reason driving the adoption. But it’s important that everyone realises that technology is a vital tool that we use to care for our patients that not only improves the quality of care, but also makes everyone’s job safer and easier.
Technologically Improving the Patient Experience from All Perspectives
When the Galway Clinic initially opened in 2004, we had a vision to integrate unified communications technology into all aspects of our operations—both in terms of patient experience and for our day-to-day operations. Working with our technology partner, PFH Technology Group, we set out to achieve two things:
1. Entertain our patients during their stay
Lying in a hospital bed—sometimes for several days—can be a stressful, lonely, boring experience. Our patients needed something to do in order to keep up their spirits and help them relax. So we installed HiMed Cockpit multimedia terminals at their bedsides. Patients can use the touchscreen to watch local TV programmes, browse the internet, or make voice and video calls to stay connected with friends and family, and even access their own Netflix accounts so it feels more like home.
They can also use the system to access hospital information and order food or a cup of tea via the digital hospital catering menus. This infotainment system was key to our patient-centric vision.
2. Enhance staff communication
At its core, strong communication in a healthcare facility means connecting to the right people at the right time, and mobilising them to get to where they need to be, no matter their location. They need to be ready for whatever situation they’re being called to handle. Proper communication for day-to-day operations requires the right tools; they need to be simple and effective.
On the communications front, we chose Unify’s OpenScape unified communications technology to help us accomplish these non-negotiables. We could have tried to piece together a system using three different solutions, but that was over-complicating the issue—not to mention the fact that the three tools wouldn’t integrate well together.
Unify’s OpenScape system was a streamlined infrastructure that didn’t require additional backend management and hardware strewn throughout the building in addition to the DECT cordless phones our medical professionals need to have on them at all times.
HiMed and OpenScape were both brought in at the same time with the help of PFH, and then we started to develop each program in parallel so patients could have a seamless experience.
This unified communications infrastructure is centrally managed through our main PBX phone system, which takes care of everything. And then it fully integrates with our crash code system as well as staff DECTs and desk phones. The solution provides direct and targeted communications to the right individual when they’re needed, and clearly states what priority-level call they’re receiving. This system reduces the number of interactions required to complete tasks, so it’s very simply managed while streamlining workflows.
Unified Communications: From Phone Calls to Nurse Calls to Crash Calls
OpenScape is for all our communications—from phone calls to nurse calls to crash calls. We’ve accomplished this by completely integrating OpenScape with HiMed technology. The main reason for combining the technologies is so patients can communicate with hospital staff directly from their beds. They’re never truly alone and they’re always connected, whether to their infotainment system or to their nurse.
Combining the technologies also simplifies the experience because it reduces the number of devices a patient has to interact with. First, if a patient has limited mobility, the system is much more accessible because the HiMed smart screen is attached to the patient’s bed on a movable arm that they can position comfortably to suit their needs. In the past, a patient would’ve had a TV, phone, and nurse call button in their room with all the cumbersome remotes to keep track of, cords to untangle, and phone numbers to remember.
By combining HiMed and OpenScape, we’ve streamlined the whole process for them while keeping our staff directly connected. It’s much less complicated now with the one device that the patient has within their reach at all times. If there’s an urgent issue, we’ve also added a big red button that they can just press. It’s intuitive to hit a big red button in an emergency; a nurse comes immediately. Everything else is done automatically through the integrated HiMed system.
It’s simple, and that’s what both our patients and our staff require, despite having vastly different needs and responsibilities. Everyone has a great deal on their minds, so the system needs to be so simple that it feels like second nature. The people don’t have to try to fit the solution; the solution fits our people.
Giving Our Staff a Technological Edge: A More Agile, Collaborative, and Productive Workforce
From our staff’s perspective, OpenScape has simplified their daily work. When they arrive at the hospital, each nurse is assigned a phone for the duration of their shift, so they’re always connected. It’s the only device they need to be accountable for during their shift, which minimizes distractions. We have approximately 400 DECT devices on site with 600 desk phones.
Our communications network is robust—every staff member is contactable. If their patient is looking for them and hits the nurse call button, their phone will ring and it will display the patient’s name and room number, so there’s no guesswork in where they’re going or who they’re seeing.
OpenScape also allows our staff to program their DECT phones with specific ringtones to differentiate between emergencies and non-emergencies, such as a colleague calling to ask a question. It’s a useful functionality that also prevents “alarm fatigue” from setting in.
Our emergency response crash call system is facilitated through OpenScape Alarm Response (OScAR). In the event of a cardiac arrest, a nurse can press a button on the wall in the patient’s room, which then alerts the cardiac arrest response team through their DECT phones.
They can see immediately where they need to be. It also sends a message to all other nursing staff nearby. Amazingly, this means response times are within 10–20 seconds. When our teams need to make critical, split-second decisions that have serious consequences, we want them to focus on the right things instead of getting slowed down by the technology that should enable and simplify their jobs. Creating simplicity and streamlined workflows fosters trust in the system.
Adoption and Continued Engagement to Better Serve Our Patients
To improve and maintain technology adoption rates and continued engagement over time, it’s critical that the right people are selected to participate from the beginning. You need to ask yourself who will be using the technology and why they will benefit. It’s as simple as that.
Once those key people are trained in the technology and are confident they are using the right solution for the right reasons, it’s much easier to disseminate that vision throughout the organisation. It becomes less of a top-down directive when you have champions spearheading the cause, because they experience the benefits. Of course, there are never any shortcuts when it comes to training and offering support, so those frameworks need to be ironclad as well.
The end result of this employee mindset and demonstrated behaviour is a better patient experience and near-constant improvement to the tools your staff need to do their jobs well.
At Galway Clinic, in every single project we launch, we always start with the right people. That process happens on an ongoing basis. And the same way we are engaging people, people engage us by coming back to us, asking for process improvements and for even better solutions. Technology and innovation at Galway Clinic are always evolving. It no longer has a beginning or an end. And that attitude, applied to improving the patient experience, exemplifies our commitment to healthcare excellence in every way.