UC in Healthcare: Optimizing your Clinical Alarm Systems

nec-healthcare-uc-cno3.jpgOverhead pages, telephones ringing, and ongoing conversations between caregivers can be a source of discomfort for patients, and, as noted by TheHospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), noise levels are a significant factor in determining overall patient satisfaction with their care. Noise distractions can also interfere with the concentration of caregivers and increase the potential for errors when providing care. In addition, HCAHPS also notes that delays in staff response to patient call bells were frequently cited as a source of patient concern. This poses a significant problem because in many hospitals call bell systems are the chief mode of communication from patient to nurse or other caregiver. With a call bell system, when the patient rings the call bell, a message is sent to a central station for processing. Sounds simple, but the caveat is that the caregiver must then be located by overhead page or pager-type communication device. In either instance no specific information is presented to the nurse about the nature of the call, forcing the caregiver to return to the bedside to determine the patient needs before acting upon it. How much more efficient would this process be if the patient’s specific request could be given to the nurse directly rather than first traveling through a general overhead alert system?

When a healthcare organization utilizes Unified Communications (UC), alerts, messages, and other time-sensitive notifications can be delivered directly to a clinician’s smart-device. Perhaps the most valuable asset preserved through UC implementation is time. The right Unified Communications vendors can add additional functionality in a healthcare setting to leverage the flexibility, mobility, and capability of smartphone technology to better enable caregivers to address noise and communication issues faces within a hospital. According to HIMSS Analytics, a caregiver can save up to two hours of overtime per shift through better, more efficient communication. Those two hours are valuable, and can, in turn, be used toward better, more focused patient care, charting and documentation.
However ironic it may seem, alarm systems have actually caused much harm in the clinical setting. One of the main challenges in dealing with alarm systems is differentiating between what is “noise” and what is an actual signal. Where the alarm systems are intended to alert the clinician on the patient’s condition, they have actually steered away from patient protection. Most notably has been the shocking and startling effect of alarm systems, or the fact that they have become a huge nuisance. Alarm system related hazards are ranked number one on theECRI Institute 2012 Top 10 Technology Hazards. Multiple alarm systems with different interfaces present in many healthcare settings in part contribute to this problem, leading to chaos, confusion, and anxiety.
An overwhelming result of alarm system related hazards is alarm fatigue. Clinical alarm fatigue tops the list of concerns for nurses in their clinical workflow processes, and according to the AAMI (Advancing Safety in Medical Technology) 2011 Clinical Alarms Summit, alarm fatigue results from “technology driving processes rather than processes driving technology”. A few causes of alarm fatigue are:

    • Clinicians being inundated with hundreds of alarm conditions per patient per day
    • Patient anxiety due to the multiple alarm signals
    • Unreliable alarm systems
    • Compromise of life-threatening situations due to confusion of alarm systems

One way to help optimize your alarm systems is by implementing technology such as Clinical Workforce Solutions. A few other ways to optimize those systems is through clinical testing and data analysis. Keep patient safety as your foremost priority and shape implementations and alarm regulations around what’s best for the patient. Lastly, regularly update alarm system policies and configurations to minimize room for error.
Ultimately, reducing overhead noise eliminates disruptive noises in the healing environment, decreases alarm fatigue, reduces the length of time a patient stays, and improves the quality of care.  The need for mobility and access to data for point-of-care services is critical, as improved communication workflows result in greater overall efficiency, reduced costs and increased staff confidence. A quieter and more restful hospital environment is sure to drive higher patient satisfaction scores. Additionally, ensuring the security your Unified Communications vendor provides meets HIPPA standards so that you are able to communicate confidential information on a privately owned smart device is key.  Click below to learn more ways you can increase your patient satisfaction scores and provide the best care possible with NEC’s Clinical Workforce Solutions.

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UC in Healthcare: Mobile Technology & Point- of- Care Communications

nec-healthcare-uc-cno2The healthcare industry has traditionally been dependent on data communication methods through computer-based information systems. Recent studies, however, have shown that clinicians no longer wish to be confined to a PC to retrieve critical information such as lab results, STAT orders, radiology reports and other health care applications. The need for communications tools that have the capability of providing coordinated patient care is on the rise. Here’s the proof: research by Aptilon Corporation reports that, by the end of 2011, 84% of physicians were using a smartphone in their daily practice. Manhattan Research reports an 82% adoption rate of smartphones within the same timeframe, and while the iPhone appears to be the preferred device for healthcare professionals, the survey does show that Android and Blackberry platforms as well as traditional cell phones are also being employed.

With the proliferation of mobile devices in healthcare, there is an increasingly urgent desire to leverage the value of immediate access offered by Unified Communications. Deploying Unified Communications in a healthcare setting can equip your organization with the tools it needs to transform clinical workflow. With UC, healthcare professionals can instantly connect to each other and to patients, positively impacting staff satisfaction and quality of care. Utilizing Unified Communications within a healthcare setting results in improved communication workflows, which in turn result in greater overall efficiency, reduced costs, increased staff confidence and patient satisfaction. If you’re wondering how UC makes this possible, here are just a few of the many ways:

  • Nurses and physicians are notified instantly with automatic alerts delivered directly to their mobile device of choice – even when outside the walls of the hospital (as appropriate).
  • Clinicians are able to retrieve patient data at point-of-care from their mobile device, allowing them to offer a faster, more effective and efficient care response.
  • Clinical staff members are able to easily communicate with each other in a healthcare environment that supports multiple devices for multiple purposes.
  • Nurses can easily locate and dial or send secure care-related text messages to physicians using smartphones.

The move towards intelligent mobile technology is not limited to smartphones. With the development of mobile technology continuously on the rise, physicians’ use of all portable devices is expanding even faster than anticipated. This is particularly true with tablets where, according to a Manhattan Research study, use has almost doubled since 2011. The study predicts that physician tablet adoption for professional purposes is expected to reach 62 percent in 2012, with the iPad being the dominant platform. Of tablet-owning physicians, half have already started using their device at point-of-care.

With smartphones and portable devices becoming the tools of choice for healthcare professionals, Unified Communications solutions allow clinicians to connect with staff, information, and applications whenever and wherever is best for them. Through UC physicians, nurses and clinicians can leverage the benefits of this technology to access new applications and provide the best patient care possible.

Click below to learn more about NEC’s clinical workflow solutions and how you can improve overall efficiency through increased staff confidence and patient satisfaction.

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Secure Your Data, Not Your Devices

nec-byod-secure-dataThe increasing prevalence of mobile data has resulted in great security concerns for enterprises operating on multi-device systems, or with a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in place. It is challenging for businesses to decide whether the greatest value is in securing the devices that data is delivered to, or securing the data itself through methods such as Mobile Device Management (MDM). Mobile devices usage is highly favorable to end users in terms of access and convenience, but IT managers and CIOs cringe at the thought of the security risks associated with mobility and allowing sensitive data to be retrieved from virtually anywhere, any time. According to the Cibecs/IDG Connect 2012 Business Data Loss Survey, 60% of IT and executive management professionals do not feel their data is completely secure. Whereas existing security measures may suffice for company-owned and controlled devices, it is in the company’s best interests to implement new levels of control on employee devices not controlled by IT to ensure maximum data protection as opposed to device protection.

If you’ve heard that securely controlling data transmission is not possible without enterprise ownership of the device, we’d like to show you otherwise. The following examples of mobile data security best practices can give you an idea of what protocol to follow in securing data across your network and devices.

Thin Client

Thin client policies apply to both smartphones as well as tablets, and include OS streaming, hosted desktop virtualization and workplace virtualization. Sensitive information is processed centrally and remote devices can access this data through thin-client terminal applications using network access only. A major benefit of thin-client operation is that information does not leave the server and can only be accessed by an authorized end user. If the authorized user becomes restricted for any reason, access is immediately revoked, with the potential for a remote wipe of the entire device if company policy dictates. This strategy can ensure further security by implementing strong authentication policies, which limit actions such as host copy-and-paste operations and screen capture in addition to controlling data and file transfers. Internal and client contact data may not always be considered eligible for company security policies. In cases such as this, a thin-client data source with applied security is an ideal solution, as it ensures a contact database stays with the company rather than the phone when the end-user leaves the organization.

Mobile Thin Client Management

Mobile thin client management allows users to control which devices are permissible for company use, thereby restricting data access points. Perhaps the most beneficial feature of this strategy is that thin devices can be remotely wiped. Smartphones and similar devices may have limiting features, such as size, processing power and storage capacity, whereby only restricted data processing can occur. Where thin devices can only keep limited amounts of data, they have the unique capability to replicate data and store master copies within specified datacenters.

When implementing the thin device strategy, companies can still control security of these devices by employing mobile device platforms or other management applications, enabling security policies regarding backup and compulsory data encryption.

Protected Data

The aforementioned strategies focus on protecting data processing environments, but how can you protect your data directly? The Protected Data method guards the data at the source rather than the endpoint, ensuring the safety of data regardless of its location. Enterprise rights management and other such technologies directly embed access rules into documents by way of cryptography. With this method, the rules are applicable to documents regardless of location or device, allowing effective security measures for multi device environments.

This pattern also allows for “detecting, logging, and blocking” data that leaves enterprise premises. Having the capability to follow the transmission of sensitive data provides the benefit of understanding the speed and direction of information transfer and flow.

In addition to applying these strategies to mobile device environments, make sure users are aware of potential security threats and how to avoid them. In addition to securing information, users should be sure to secure the many popular applications that smartphones have. Educating users and emphasizing the security risks on their personal mobile devices can make corporate policies much more effective; by demonstrating that there is a significant and known threat to users’ personal information as well as company information, users are more likely to adhere to corporate controls. This provides a win-win scenario, protecting users’ personal info while also protecting your corporate data.

Top Concerns When Creating a BYOD Policy

nec-byod-policyThe Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has faced an uphill battle for adoption due to the issue of effective policy implementation.  BYOD offers employees the luxury of working with devices they are most familiar with and can foster a more productive and collaborative environment, but these benefits must be balanced against the inherent dangers of uncontrolled devices having access to your data and network. When implementing a BYOD policy, special care needs to be taken to ensure existing company goals are not compromised. An effective, comprehensive BYOD policy will promote collaborative solutions for executives, IT staff and workforce users, but must take into account the following policy concerns:

1. Security

According to Gartner, the number one concern for potential BYOD policy implementation is security. The transition from company-issued devices to personal devices requires strict guidelines defined in your security policies. Protecting communications, monitoring data usage, and addressing privacy matters are imperative measures to take. Updating and executing data encryption methods, using SSL or HTTPS for example, will ensure secure data transmission. Archiving and recording methods should also be implemented in complying with company regulations, as well as increasing overall security.  BYOD systems can attain the same level of security (or even greater) as before implementation if optimal software services are put in place.

2. Support and System Administration

With multiple personal devices operating on company premises, support and system administration policies must be established. By instigating single-point administration, changes can be replicated smoothly across users within the enterprise. To reap the full benefits of your Unified Communications platform, it is essential to enhance support for administration as well as end users. So how can you do this? First, select a platform that allows easily accessible support, either by in-house IT staff or from your chosen support provider. It is also beneficial to define clear user roles to identify specific support and administration options that are available according to the user’s responsibilities and position.

3. Device Choice

When determining your device policies, of course you’ll have to determine which devices are allowed, which ones aren’t, and why. It is also helpful to get feedback from employees during this process. You can analyze employee preference by survey, asking such questions as “what devices do you already own?”, “are they compatible with baseline security/support features?” It is helpful to be familiar with the operating system, hardware and other specifications of the various devices and device types. In the future you may want to leverage this knowledge to lay the foundation for assessment of additional devices and technologies. Feedback from employees will also help keep your IT team up to date with changing devices as the consumer market changes.

4. Monitoring Usage

Whether your business adopts a formal BYOD plan, such as implementing a BYOD policy solely for senior-level executives, or creates a more informal plan which permits all employees to use personal devices, it is imperative to establish usage guidelines. One way you can do this is to develop a list of guidelines that establish binding agreements for employees to adhere to so that you protect and ensure the safety of sensitive corporate data. This way, if employees want to use their own devices, they will agree that the device, including their personal data, could be remotely wiped if it’s lost or stolen. It should also be clear that it is their responsibility to back up any personal information they don’t want lost in that eventuality. Appropriate termination polices should also be in place, acknowledging that all company information will be permanently deleted upon leaving the organization. It may also be beneficial to establish a mobility committee to create and monitor the success of policy goals.

How Unified Communications Can Help

Unified Communications (UC) can’t take the place of effective and well thought out BYOD guidelines, but it can help keep your company contacts and other data safe and secure when an employee’s device is lost or stolen. With the right UC app, your IT administrator can rest assured that traffic is secure and data loss is prevented with encrypted data en route to any endpoint. What’s more, Unified Communications will allow your company to provide a win-win for employee choice and corporate security. With the plethora of devices available – from iPhone to Blackberry to Android and more – you don’t want to try to support each individually when you can easily provide users all their desktop communications capabilities through a single approved UC app – on the device of their choice. This gives employees freedom of choice on their device and you the peace of mind and safety of managing a user and their network credentials the same way you’d manage their corporate issue desktop. One of the most sought-after features of the app is the added benefit of hiding a user’s mobile number when they make calls and displaying only their corporate phone number on caller ID devices – a single number identifies employees both internally and to your clients. Truly remote working.
With Unified Communications they’ll also benefit from added flexibility and mobility with the following:

  • Corporate presence and IM
  • Click to dial from mobile applications
  • Availability of the UC app from the same app store they use on their personal device
  • Access to corporate directory and resources on the go

While Unified Communications won’t solve all your concerns, it can help alleviate some of the primary security challenges related to BYOD. For more information on how NEC provides the same UC experience across multiple devices click here.

Empower Your New Workforce With BYOD and Unified Communications

byod-infographic-design-1Smart phones, tablets, laptops, regardless of the device, the Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD phenomenon, is on the rise in organizations everywhere – even yours. Check out this infographic and you’ll see that 60% of companies already have a BYOD policy in place. Official or unofficial, BYOD is likely already taking place within your organization, so how are you navigating the changes it brings? When it comes to IT needs, it is necessary to have the means to create a network of productive and responsive people who can respond at moment’s notice. Communication is certainly key in achieving this, and technology has evolved to make way for BYOD as a cost-efficient method to do so.

Many companies started finding it beneficial to allow employees to bring their own communication devices on premises to use for work purposes. With the right policy, BYOD empowers employees to get their job done the best way they see fit. It also aids in collaboration and can increase both revenue and productivity while efficiently bridging the end user generation gap.

Tying it all together: Unified Communication, Collaboration

Advances in technology have led to the ongoing innovation of powerful, consumer-level devices carried in the pockets of millions of people. Did you ever imagine that all the power of a workstation desktop would be available on a majority of today’s smart phones? This concept grabbed the attention of enterprise software developers early on and they have continued to capitalize on creating scalable communications and productivity software that spans multiple devices.

Most of your workforce is likely already walking around with their own computing device. From smartphones to laptops to tablets, many companies have found that in allowing the workforce to use devices with which they are already familiar, you can improve productivity and lower overall operating costs, resulting in additions to your top-line. In this A.T. Kearney report, 40 percent of respondents admit they use at least one personal IT device for business purposes. This same study cites that employees who can perform their duties using tools tailored to their needs, rather than tools designed to meet company-wide standards, have a more positive attitude, are more motivated and more efficient. In order for a BYOD strategy to be beneficial, communications must be paired with technology that is aligned with the needs of your workforce.

If you’re looking for ways to empower your end users to increase their productivity, check out the CIO.com webcast that we sponsored on the topic of BYOD and the new workforce. You’ll learn more about implementing strategies to build a secure, scalable, and cost efficient business that addresses the demand for BYOD and access to unified communications.

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Infographic source