By Kate Quirke in Digital Health CONNECT Magazine
New Zealand healthcare professionals are paged an average of 3.5 times per hour and spend seven percent of their workday responding to those notifications. Pager communication often lacks standardisation, content consistency, or an indication of urgency – creating a challenge for clinicians to prioritise requests and manage their workload (Ullah et al, 20231). The result is precious time often wasted trying to connect with the sender to clarify messages.
Healthcare in New Zealand, like many other countries, has been grappling with the challenges of outdated communication methods and the subsequent impact on patient safety and staff well-being. In their work, Ullah et al (2023) reference several studies linking the disruptive nature of pager notifications to medical errors and adverse patient outcomes.
Additional stressors on the system, such as workforce shortages and burnout, are further impeding effective communication and task management. The New Zealand health workforce plan for 2023/242 released in September found that New Zealand has approximately 8,000 vacancies, and only 71 physicians for every 100,000 people, compared to 99 per 100,000 in Australia. In the face of these challenges, it is critical that New Zealand takes advantage of tools that release time to care. The ability to assign tasks, send notifications and alerts and have real-time visibility on team workloads empowers staff to allocate more time to providing care.
Alcidion supports healthcare organisations in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom with Smartpage, a solution that facilitates fast and effective clinical communication and task management between doctors and nurses, with clear visibility of workloads, support for efficient collaboration and easy task prioritisation.
This new technology solves the challenges presented by pagers, and has driven a wide range of benefits for clinician, patients, and healthcare systems including:
- Enhancements to patient safety: Immediate access to patient information reduces medical errors and improves safety and patient experience.
- Released time to care: In a recent case, clinicians reported hours of time released per shift that were able to be applied to patient care. This trend is consistent with other deployments with Alcidion customers.
- Improved staff engagement and well-being: Streamlined communication reduces staff burnout and fosters collaboration, whilst supporting clinicians to work at the top of their license.
- Cost reduction: The benefits of released time to care, improved patient care and experience, coupled with the savings from retiring the pager system and improving staff engagement provide a strong business case for adoption.
“Our doctors are now saving up to 20 minutes of time per hour” – Waitemata District Health Board
Smartpage was recently recognised as the Communication Tool of the Year in the UK, after the successful deployments with several NHS Trusts, including Guys and St Thomas’ where the Smartpage deployment enable 3,000 pagers to be retired and replaced with with context-rich messaging. Lancashire Teaching Hospital has also adopted Smartpage, where junior doctors reported 2-3 hours saved per shift.
Manx Care took a different approach, implementing Patientrack, Alcidion’s e-observation software, to automate the calculation of patient early-warning scores and identify patient deterioration or improvements. Following this success, Manx Care added Smartpage in 2021, providing clinical staff with a secure app to message more efficiently, and create a fully-automated workflow for Patientrack alerts associated with patient early-warning scores and deterioration.
“Smartpage has provided Noble’s Hospital with a modern and intuitive messaging tool that helps to improve care and drive task efficiency by providing clinically rich information at point of care. Working innovatively with Alcidion to deliver a product that met the needs of front-line staff meant that our roll out and user adoption was relatively effortless.” – Dr Gregor Peden, Manx Care Chief Clinical Information Officer
The challenges associated with outdated communication methods in healthcare have long been a cause for concern. With the next generation of clinical communications technology, New Zealand’s healthcare system has an opportunity to embrace a modern, efficient, and technology-driven approach to communication and task management.
- Real-time patient data collection and automated Early Warning Score (EWS) alerts.
- Customised scoring that can be configured to support unique systems for monitoring patient deterioration.
- Access to comprehensive patient records on smartphones and web-based systems.
- Streamlined communication for clinical handovers and support services.
- Efficient clinical communication for reviewing results, updating medications, completing a discharge summary or addressing interventions in patient care.
- Secure two-way communication keeping the clinical team informed, visible delivery and read receipts, escalation to smartphone alerts or voicemail in areas of poor reception.
- Clinical and non-clinical tasking
- Efficient dispatch capability
Hear from the users
Capital and Coast District implemented Alcidion’s Smartpage solution to help communication between its clinical teams, and improve visibility, efficiency, and patient safety. Doctors are saving 10 to 15 minutes per hour, as they no longer need to call around to find the nurse who paged them. Staff have mobile access to patient information, enabling them to manage their workload more efficiently.
At HiNZ’s Digital Health Week, Capital and Coast will be presenting on how they are using Smartpage for root-cause analysis for orderly services at Wellington Hospital, with 1,000 tasks a day addressed by orderlies via mobile devices using Smartpage.
“The reporting tool in Smartpage is very useful, especially when we review a reportable event that is related to a communication breakdown. It helps identify what the problem or issue was, and it gives us the opportunity to provide a resolution in a more efficient manner.” – Zaffer Malik, Clinical Nurse Educator, Capital and Coast
- Ullah et al (2023) ‘Use of pager devices in New Zealand public hospitals as a critical communication tool: Barriers & way forward’. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10407125/
- Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand (2023) ‘Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora Health Workforce Plan 2023/24’. Available at: https://www.tewhatuora.govt.nz/publications/health-workforce-plan-202324/
This article was originally published in Digital Health CONNECT Magazine, 27 November 2023