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8 Things To Keep In Mind When Evaluating A Communications Solution

Are you considering purchasing a communications solution for your hospital? Here are 8 things to keep in mind before you purchase.

  1. Scalability – Often a hospital will invest in a solution for one area that is suffering. Believing that the communication problems are unique to that area or unit, a purchase is made only to realize  that these problems are ubiquitous. That is usually when it is discovered that what was purchased is too expensive to spread to the rest of the institution. Give some thought to costs on an enterprise level prior to purchase.
  2. Voice and Text  – Focus is often placed on voice communication. Devices typically take advantage of local wireless networks and Voice-Over-Internet-Protocols (VOIP) in order to connect employees. But, those employees, especially nurses and physicians, need to be able to perform a little notification triage. Is it critical to interrupt the current patient encounter or can it wait? This is what text capability is best suited to do. A text notification allows a person to differentiate between a physician holding, a pharmacy calling for clarification, or a new order or request that has been placed. Additionally, those text communications need to be able to be sent and delivered without a computer browser based interface- meaning device to device.
  3. Updates – Some technology platforms take advantage of older generation smartphones. These are certainly robust devices but operating system updates are frequently pushed to them automatically (iOs updates for example) and the communications software has to be prepared to update their programs to match. Otherwise, proprietary devices are necessary.
  4. Connectivity (voip, cellular) – Local wireless connectivity is common. However, if communication is expected to reach physicians out of the hospital (any good solutions should) then there needs to be a method to deliver that communication externally. This is typically performed through web based solutions reaching internet connected smart phones, but cellular solutions are acceptable as well.
  5. Software only options – Software only solutions that allow employees to use their personal devices are good options. Smartphones have evolved to include robust security measures and location services for lost devices. Additionally, most of your employees are carrying these devices already. The cost savings in providing software based solutions can be significant, making scalability far less expensive.
  6. Conversation history – It seems second nature now to be able to review prior text history. However, it is not a standard in healthcare communication services. Concerns  over HIPAA laws lead some to erase messages upon reading. Though that is the easiest way to maintain privacy, it is certainly not practical in healthcare delivery. The ability to review prior conversations is important.
  7. EMR compatibility – This functionality is in its infancy, but it is coming. Systems should communicate with established electronic medical records to allow for automated documentation of communications. That alleviates human data entry freeing up your licensed staff to perform patient care. Everyone is concerned over the volume of data already being stored in EMRs, but forcing employees to manually translate orders form one device to another creates an step susceptible to human error; something we have too much experience with in healthcare already.
  8. Battery life – Far too many proprietary devices have battery lives shorter than employee shifts. Keep in mind that any device with a battery life less than once shift requires the purchase of more devices to cover a standard day. Typical employee shifts run up to 12 hours at which point devices can be returned to a charging station. Look for battery life to match. Also, avoid anything that doesn’t have a lithium battery. Nickel cadmium (and other nickel compounds) do not have the long battery life (hours) or life span (charging cycles) that lithium batteries demonstrate. Unless you want recurring high battery costs and rapid device obsolescence, avoid the nickel.

Have you experienced unforseen issues with your communications solution? Share those with us in the comments section below.

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