As a 72-bed long-term acute care hospital, caregivers at Acuity Specialty Hospital take on the hard stuff. Day-in and day-out, they deal with medically complex patients who need full-scale intensive care as well as patients requiring prolonged ventilator use, ongoing dialysis for chronic renal failure, intensive respiratory care, multiple IV medications or transfusions, complex wound care and other complicated care. The average length of stay for these patients runs to about 25 days, compared to just four to five days for the typical hospital.
Not surprisingly, these patients have needs – and lots of them. In fact, clinicians at the hospital typically answer nearly 100,000 nurse call lights per year.
About five years ago, leaders decided they needed a call system and related technology that could ensure they are efficiently and effectively meeting all these patient needs.
“We had an archaic system and realized that call response time is a really integral component of patient satisfaction here at Acuity. So, we knew that we needed to get technology in place that would help us improve,” says Chris Heilman, RN, BSN, Chief Clinical Officer.
After reviewing several options, the hospital selected Paladin Protective Systems, Inc., to install a call system from GE (now Ascom) integrated with a real-time locating system (RTLS) from Versus Technology. With the two systems working in tandem, the hospital now records when a patient call is placed, who answered the call, and how long it takes them to respond.
Here’s how it works: All clinicians and managers wear dual-technology infrared (IR) and radio frequency identification (RFID) locator badges. When a patient presses the call button, the system notes when the caregiver enters the room and measures the exact response time. In addition to monitoring call light response, the system also provides data on how often the nurses and other clinical staff round on patients, including how much time they spend in the patient room.
As a benefit to the caregivers, once they enter a patient room, the system automatically cancels the patient call, extinguishing the call light. Where before nurses would have to manually cancel the call by pressing a button at the head of the bed, they now can immediately tend to the patient’s needs.
By leveraging the reporting capabilities of the RTLS-integrated nurse call system, the hospital set out to provide top-notch service to patients. Since there was no established benchmark regarding optimal call time responses, front line staff established a goal: 95 percent of calls answered in less than three minutes and 100 percent of calls answered in less than six minutes.
Use of the solution enables managers to quickly investigate any call response delays.
“Any time we have a delayed call light, I can go back and try to figure out why the patient did not get a quick response. I can see that six staff members were in the hallway and four were at the nursing station. So, I can start to investigate and ask why someone did not respond to the call right away,” Heilman explains.
And, currently staff members are very close to reaching the overall goals, with caregivers responding to 94 percent of calls in less than three minutes and 99.5 to 99.8 percent of calls in less than six minutes.
The system is also improving both patient and employee satisfaction. Heilman routinely posts the call response time rates and rounding reports so patients and employees can see them. Patients and family members can rest easy, knowing they are in a facility that truly delivers great service.
“It’s great from a peace of mind standpoint. If family members are not in the room or are at home, they can be sure their loved one’s needs are being met, because we can show them exactly how often we rounded and exactly how quickly we responded to call lights,” Heilman says.
Such accountability keeps staff members on their toes, but also enables them to rest easy as well.
“If a patient says that no one has been in the room for six hours or that a call light has been going off for 45 minutes, we can check on that,” Heilman explains. “In fact, with the system in place, we have found that these patient complaints typically are not valid.”
Documenting just how well caregivers are serving patients is becoming more important as the healthcare industry moves toward value-based care, where payment will be based on patient satisfaction measures.
“It is essential to have [technology] like this in this day and age where reimbursement is based on satisfaction. It’s great to be able to prove that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing,” Heilman concludes.
“It’s great from a peace of mind standpoint. If family members are not in the room or are at home, they can be sure their loved one’s needs are being met, because we can show them exactly how often we rounded and exactly how quickly we responded to call lights.”
Chris Heilman, RN, BSN
Acuity Specialty Hospital of Ohio Valley is a long-term acute care hospital (LTACH) based in Steubenville, Ohio, that serves patients with complex medical conditions who require specialized treatment for an extended period of time. The hospital is part of AcuityHealthcare, LP, Charlotte, NC, the first employee-owned LTACH company.