An Interview with BID-Plymouth CIO Ron Rutherford and Clinical Informatics Nurse Jean Marie Grupillion
Michelle Noteboom: Give me a bit of background on your hospital.
Ron Rutherford: Jordan Hospital is a 100-plus-year-old, 155-bed community hospital that was acquired and became a part of the Beth Israel Deaconess Health System in January of 2014. We’re a full-service community hospital serving approximately 200,000 residents in eleven communities. There are few healthcare services we don’t provide.
MN: You recently implemented the Voalte smartphone solution. What led you to seek a new communication platform?
RR: We recognized the need for our clinical users to communicate in the most efficient way possible, and we were aware of some technology tools that could make that happen. We also needed to make sure the solution was secure and HIPAA-compliant.
We worked with one vendor initially, but experienced a high rate of dropped calls and other challenges in regard to phone connectivity. That’s when we sought out Voalte. We went through a full RFP with Voalte and some of their competitors, such as Vocera, Avaya and a couple others. I had experience with implementing Voalte at another facility a few years ago. After a thorough review, we selected Voalte and deployed a pilot.
MN: How did the pilot go?
Jean Marie Grupillion: Well, we’re still in the pilot phase, and I think the product is performing very well. Regarding feedback from staff, right off the bat they are already saying, “I love it.” They’re connecting when they need to connect. I’ve had no dropped calls reported to me and they love the desktop client, Voalte Messenger. They were previously on iPads, but I think Voalte makes it a little bit easier for the unit coordinators to utilize Voalte Messenger on a desktop and send messages to the nurses on their Voalte smartphones. All the feedback so far has been positive. People keep asking for more, but we wanted to start small with texting and calling. After we perfect those functions, we will add alarms.
MN: How big is the pilot?
JMG: We launched Voalte on our two biggest Medical-Surgical units, which have 41 and 36 beds.
MN: What other features will you be adding?
JMG: We’ll be adding the nurse call alarm system, which also includes bed alarms.
RR: Voalte stands for Voice, Alarm and Text. The voice part is self-explanatory. As Jean Marie said, the alarm system integrates with bed alarms, EKG alarms, and other technologies so the nurse is notified on her smartphone when the patient rings the call bell or when the patient has a cardiac arrhythmia. Texting is the standard for communication back and forth.
MN: Great. From the time that you selected Voalte to when you actually went live, what was involved on your end to get things operational?
JMG: Voalte sent trainers who did all of the training two weeks prior to go live. After training, we went live and had some onsite support for the first three days. We had one Voalte support staff on each unit and I was floating from unit to unit. This helped us handle any issues that came up. They were on site relatively early and covered the evening shift set up as well.
MN: How long have you been live on the pilot?
JMG: We went live on March 3, 2015.
MN: I realize it’s early, but what kind of efficiencies are you able to identify at this point?
RR: It’s a quieter environment.
JMG: Yes. Right off the bat we were able to minimize overhead paging. I think this will improve patient satisfaction, but we’ll have to wait to see the scores.
RR: We’ve also experienced fewer phone calls because nurses are sending text messages instead.
JMG: Yes. They’re using the texting feature primarily. We just added some hospitalists to the Voalte system and are looking at how we can improve workflow there too. People can easily send a text message instead of searching for each other over the unit. Improved workflow and communication are the biggest improvements we’ve seen.
MN: Did you have any concerns about security?
JMG: No. The texting feature is HIPAA-compliant. Each staff member has a unique password they choose when prompted to change their password after training.
RR: The system also runs on a separate, dedicated secure network. On the preparation side, the Voalte technical team did some work setting up the servers prior to go live. They communicated the importance and need for good Wi-Fi coverage in the hospital. So much so, they sent someone to do a thorough assessment and give us recommendations for adequate coverage.
Voalte also manages the device configuration and then ships the smartphones to the customer fully provisioned then worked with Voalte by phone to get everything up and running.
MN: What do you see on the horizon for mobile healthcare communications?
JMG: We definitely anticipate a health system-wide expansion, depending on funds and the priority of projects. Our ultimate goal is to replace the C-silver cellphones that we’re using.
RR: The C-silver cellphones are an older technology and a device that many hospitals use. Voalte smartphones are actually a better tool because they are multifunction.
JMG: Next, we’d like to implement alarms, staffing assignments, patient names or room numbers, and staff assignments. A hospital-wide rollout is the ultimate goal to bridge the communication gap, get everyone on the same page and hopefully improve HCAHPS scores, minimize noise and get everyone connected. We’re adding smaller groups like pharmacists and hospitalists at present in a slower rollout, and that seems to be going well so far.
RR: One of the components Voalte offers is called “Voalte Me,” an application that we could put on the personal devices of physicians, so they can participate in secure texting from offsite. For example, if a physician is at dinner with their wife or their husband, and they need to communicate with a nurse in the hospital, they could send a secure text message from their phone. Jean Marie is testing Voalte Me now.
JMG: That’s correct. I have three physicians and three hospitalists on Voalte Me at present. One of the nurse managers is, as well, and she’s already giving great feedback. She usually would text her charge nurses. The charge nurses have a phone with the data plan right now. But instead of having to call someone late at night, she’s able to send a text and touch base quickly with the charge nurse to make sure the floor unit is running smoothly. Then she can go on with putting her kids to bed or focus back on what she was doing initially. .
MN: Do you have any advice for other facilities that are currently looking to add mobile healthcare communications?
JMG: There are two rules: start small and outline the priorities for your organization. Some facilities are very heavy call facilities, so voice quality is definitely a main priority. This is something that was lacking the first time around. Definitely know what the goals are for the organization, whether it’s a text messaging heavy organization or more voice, so you can get a wireless assessment and make sure your infrastructure can handle your ultimate goals. You have to match the two together.
RR: Jean Marie does a great job of communicating with users because she’s a practicing nurse who can work up on the floor with the staff. She’s readily accepted there and they will give her honest feedback about what’s working and what’s not working. She takes the pulse of what’s going on, which is helpful so that IT doesn’t think everything is fine when it’s truly not. The users also help us prioritize what’s most important to them. For example, if they want to look into connecting the EMR to a smartphone, it’s important to set those priorities. Listening to the user is one of the keys Jean Marie has done well.
JMG: I’ve definitely had the benefit of being a floor nurse, so I can relate to my colleagues up there as peers. It has really helped make the project successful.
MN: Any concluding thoughts?
JMG: No, it’s been all positive. I’m just hoping that it keeps moving in this direction and we keep the positive momentum.
t hoping that it stays in this direction and we keep the positive momentum.