The critical role of mobility in a silent hospital

Feb. 28, 2017
Andrew Mellin, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Spok

BEEP. Buzz. Rrrring. SCREECH. Slam. “Code Blue, floor four.”

A cacophony of sounds like this is familiar to those who have worked or stayed in a hospital. The World Health Organization recommends that average patient room noise levels remain around 30 decibels, but the actual average hovers around 48 decibels according to a study by University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. Peak noise level rivaled that of a chainsaw and reached more than 80 decibels.

It’s well established that quiet is needed for optimal rest and healing, and it’s even the focus of an HCAHPS question. With rapid growth in both infrastructure and healthcare professionals on staff, Children’s Hospital Colorado decided to make a major change to support its focus on patient- and family-centered care by becoming a ‘silent’ hospital. This meant reducing disruptive noises such as loud public-address announcements, alarms, and alerts. As a large organization with an increasingly mobile staff, the initiative required staff to re-evaluate the organization’s entire critical communications strategy.

“Our goal was to make sure that we could still communicate efficiently and get the right physician to the right bed in a timely manner, without impacting the patient experience,” explains Andrew Blackmon, chief technology officer.

They quickly discovered that to be successful at becoming a silent hospital, their critical communications strategy would have to be multifaceted. In addition to paging, they needed a dependable notification solution for nurse call alerts and code calls and a system to handle on-call scheduling. The list also included finding a way to communicate well with physicians without relying on announcements broadcast throughout the hospital as well as reducing the number of devices that staff needed to carry.

“We needed a system that was fast and extremely reliable no matter where you happened to be in our location,” said Blackmon.

Nurse call alert on Spok Mobile

Looking for a strategic partner that could offer a range of solutions and integrate well with existing technology, the team turned to Spok, a leader in healthcare communications, to provide the reliability and integrations Children’s Hospital Colorado was seeking. As with any major initiative, the team moved forward with their new communications strategy in phases. Staff started with incorporating on-call scheduling and sending nurse call alert notifications to staff’s mobile devices. When that was well received, they began a pilot of the Spok Mobile secure text messaging solution, which allowed constantly on-the-move physicians to communicate with each other more quickly and easily.

“We are working to limit clinician interruptions so physicians can concentrate on the patient,” said Blackmon.

With a powerful platform in place, communication reliability has improved, as has the overall care delivery process. Staff members now can view logs and monitor when messages were sent, received, and acknowledged, which helps them better coordinate treatment plans. Delivery of code and nurse call alerts is far more dependable, which means patient needs are easier to address, particularly when time-sensitive situations arise. And thanks to the elimination of outdated technology, the hospital is seeing reduced operational expenses and an overall improvement in communication among providers. They now have the convenience of discreet, secure mobile communication without relying on disruptive announcements for information and messages. And most importantly, the quieter hospital has improved patient care and satisfaction.

“It’s really important for a health system to be strategic and efficient, and a partner like Spok can help address a number of issues and enable us to plan for the future,” said Blackmon.

With alarms that use to beep and buzz going directly to clinicians’ mobile devices, overhead pages turned into text notifications, and more care team conversations happening through smartphones instead of in hallways, Children’s Hospital Colorado has been able to focus on what’s really important to Blackmon and the rest of the team: providing the best possible care for the kids.

How to Put Your Hospital in “Silent Mode”

Quiet hospital initiatives can improve quality of care, patient care outcomes, patient satisfaction, and associated HCAHPS scores. Here are a few things to consider when you are changing your workflows and communications to create a quiet healing environment for patients:

  1. Implement an alerting solution to manage alarms from systems like nurse call and patient monitoring—make sure to carefully consider business rules that ensure only important and critical alerts make audible sounds.
  2. Include a secure texting application in your alerting workflows to provide more control over alert sounds, including vibrate options.
  3. Institute quite times at night where noise and lighting are reduced to promote rest for patients.
  4. Create policies to limit noise from people and technologies.
  5. Create message groups for codes and other alerts, instead of relying on noisy overhead systems.
  6. Even the patient’s themselves can contribute to noise. Communicate to patients and families that you are working to create a quiet healing environment, and to please keep their devices on vibrate.
  7. Implement technology to monitor decibel levels/noise in certain areas to ensure you are meeting your goals.

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