Turn down the noise! Is it possible in a hospital?

click to enlargeTry texting and more. One of the more unfairly overlooked mHealth tools is text or SMS. While simple, the back end and integration can be complex, especially when integrated within healthcare IT systems.

In the US, one of the key metrics that hospitals are rated on in their HCAHPS scores (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is quietness of the hospital environment. Hospital noise is more than annoying–it is at a level that blocks healing and deprives patients of needed sleep (see study). There are door slams, people walking and talking, TVs and incessant boops and beeps from equipment. This annual survey told Inspira Health Network, a three-location hospital system in southern New Jersey, that they had a noise pollution problem.

One noise IHN hospital management could control was overhead pages–over 150 daily at their Vineland hospital. In a Quiet Hospital initiative, they replaced the overhead page system largely with a secure texting system developed by Newark, NJ-based Practice Uniteimplemented by their reseller, Futura Mobility and consultant Pursuit Healthcare Advisors. Texts now go from nurses to physician smartphones, reducing overhead pages to perhaps two emergency ones daily. Scores for quietness satisfaction have improved drastically: at the Elmer hospital from 60 to nearly 100 percent, Woodbury from 45 to 56 percent, and Vineland from 55 to 62 percent.

Where the interesting integration–and workload reduction–happens is that those nurses can also make a stat consult request to a physician via Inspira’s EHR which is then sent to the physician’s phone. It also leaves an audit trail so that completion can be tracked. Lab results also can be sent to the EHR or phone, depending on physician preference, and patient round lists to residents’ phones. According to Healthcare IT News, these features have been adopted by affiliated medical practices; it has improved response times, patient consults and EHR updates, plus reduced patient stays. Health Data Management, HIT Consultant (Photo Cambridge Sound Management from their article on sound masking in hospitals.)

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