Future of Integrated Communications

Healthcare Driving the Future of Integrated Communications

By Steve Potts, Electrical Connection board member and president of Primary Systems 

At a St. Louis metro hospital, a nurse is notified of a patient pain issue via her in-house wireless phone.  As she goes to the patient room, a stream of relevant patient information, including pain medication, appears on her phone. Upon entering the room, the nurse’s tracking tag is scanned, logging the patient visit into the system.

integrated-communicationNowhere is integrated communications technology pushing new horizons more than in healthcare.  Today, electrical contractors with the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), like Primary Systems, are expanding these horizons not only for healthcare, but other industries.

Patient flow, clinical communications, nurse call systems, electronic medical records, supply records are all being integrated in communication platforms to improve the patient experience, optimize treatment, maximize productivity and track important data.  The traditional manual processes – such as notifications for transport, room cleaning, and room prepped for patients — are now being programmed into a wall-mounted, touch-screen terminal at the patient room’s entrance and tailored as needed. More than 60 healthcare clinical processes can be programmed on a single terminal, automating these processes and creating greater staff efficiencies and providing better patient care.

Critical to any communication systems success is engaging medical staff, including nurses and patient technicians, to fully understand workflow.  Indeed, some of the best integration ideas come from the medical staff.  One system was flexible enough to tie in patient discharge information with a hospital’s pharmacy so medications for home could be more conveniently filled.  Another hospital added an infrared monitoring system to certain patient rooms to measure motion indicating a patient with a fall risk is attempting to get out of bed.

Once NECA contractors gather pertinent workflow information, they design and program the system with flexibility to meet future healthcare management needs. Every system should be commissioned through rigorous testing followed by thorough staff training in its functionality.  The life span of these new systems has been expanded greatly with the ability to upgrade software and make changes to clinical processes without having to change the patient room hardware.

Systems this complex require a high level of skill.  Hospital communication systems are part of the constantly evolving training curriculum for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 who are employed by NECA contractors.  NECA contractors take it a step further by visiting the nation’s largest hospital communication manufacturers for additional specialized training on their systems.

While hospitals are pushing these technology horizons, new integrated communication systems are now being tailored for nursing homes and independent senior living facilities.  The industrial sector is adapting the technology to ensure the integrity of the manufacturing process. Sensors detecting potential product adulteration can immediately shutdown production and notify management, saving thousands of dollars.

It wasn’t too long ago that healthcare and other industries relied solely on buttons and flashing lights to alert staff of critical issues needing immediate attention.  The enormous adaptability of wireless communication integration has created step saving and in some cases, a lifesaving response to medical needs.  NECA contractors and IBEW communication technicians continue to help push horizons in the design, installation and adaptability of these systems. Learn more at www.electricalconnection.org.