Mobile platform increases efficiency for caregivers throughout hospital

After months of research and testing, HCA is now conducting a pilot of a smartphone program that allows nurses, doctors and other clinicians to connect and share patient information without running afoul of HIPAA rules and other privacy concerns.

“We had been asking the clinical community what they wanted from a secure messaging platform on a smartphone,” says Kelly Aldrich, Chief Nursing Informatics Officer for HCA. “They told us they needed a device to communicate about many different aspects of patient care — not just messaging. So we got to work on a solution that would include requests for nurse call-bell integration, lab values, an ability to broadcast to multiple devices, and more.”

All these functions are packaged into an iPhone, and the first devices were rolled out at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center in Nashville last summer. After receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from clinicians and physicians, the devices are also live now at several other facilities.

“The communication is phenomenal when it comes to patient throughput,” Aldrich says. “If the PACU nurses send a message to a floor nurse that a patient’s on his or her way, they are better prepared to receive the patient. And because the system is being used by physicians, pharmacy techs, and almost everyone in the hospital, it’s improving efficiency between departments and also increasing patient satisfaction because people are getting better, quicker care.”

Adoption fast and easy

Samira Kamal, Clinical Staff Pharmacist, is able to reach out to caregivers much more efficiently.
Samira Kamal, Clinical Staff Pharmacist, is able to reach out to caregivers much more efficiently.

There had been some concern about how quickly staff could get used to the system, but everyone was up to speed in short order, says Chris Staigl, Chief Nursing Officer at TriStar Southern Hills.

“The transition time was nil,” Staigl says. “Texting and using a smartphone is technology that people have already embraced, so we saw usage skyrocket. It’s providing staff with a way to not only call each other, but also securely text doctors, which was something they really wanted.”

There are around 1,000 messages being sent daily within the facility, and a hefty portion of those also include updates on lab results, another feature that was in high demand. Within that function, the user can see if results are in and, if so, also look at the patient’s history to see if the new results trigger specific actions.

“We have a directory of everyone in the hospital on there, so you can find the person you need right away and send them pertinent information,” Staigl says. “Now everybody’s getting a lot more done, and this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what these phones can offer us.”

A camera feature is in development, which will allow caregivers and offsite providers to consult and deliver care not only more efficiently, but also safely. The transferred image files will be encrypted so they can’t be saved to the device, ensuring that the patient’s medical records will remain protected.

Doctors eager to get on board

The smartphones are centrally stored and charged, and so are accessible to staff when they begin and end a shift, or need to swap devices.
The smartphones are centrally stored and charged, and so are accessible to staff when they begin and end a shift, or need to swap devices.

Being able to see patients in her office and also handle requests from the hospital has indeed been a major selling point for Dr. Tracy Osborne, who agrees that the technology has huge ongoing potential as other features are added and integrated into it.

“The immediacy is good, and it saves a lot of time if I need to tell a nurse something,” Dr. Osborne says. “Before, I would call and get the unit secretary, who’d have to find the nurse, or take a message. This is much more fluid, because I am in immediate contact with that person. Anything that can save all of us time is going to be welcomed, and being able to see labs, and eventually imaging, is wonderful. I’m able to move quicker in terms of patient care, which is our shared goal.”

Pharmacy issues solved in seconds

Avoiding multiple calls and leaving messages is also a boon for the hospital’s lab professionals, according to the staff members who are most closely involved.

“iMobile has been a wonderful addition to our technology and workflow,” says Sarah Lynne Gates, Clinical Staff Pharmacist. “It has improved medication safety through more timely information about medication orders, and also has facilitated communication between pharmacists, physicians, nurses and other clinicians. It has helped immensely increase efficiency because the sender knows that the information has been sent directly and securely to the intended recipient.”

The program helps speed the lab process, as nurses can be easily contacted about the status of the specimens they collected, or need to collect.

“Even if they just tell us that they’ll have it soon, that’s fine,” Gates says.

“We just need to know that it’s on their list of things to do and that it’s coming to us eventually.”

Patients are pleased to hear about the new technology, although there has been some education in that regard as well.

“We give an information card that looks just like the phone case to patients,” Aldrich says. “Our care team lets our patients and family members know that we are coordinating care in both synchronous and asynchronous ways to best serve them.”