COVID-19: Protecting Staff, Protecting Patients

By Benjamin Kanter, MD

Physicians and nurses contend with infectious diseases on a daily basis. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting a spotlight on this issue in part because this virus is so communicable, and also because so much about the illness it causes is unknown. There is a heightened need to protect the people providing care while at the same time optimizing patient throughput.

Without effective communication, patients cannot be moved through a hospital. And yet with a highly infectious virus, the simple act of communicating using conventional tools can put care providers at risk. If physicians or nurses get sick or exposed and are subsequently quarantined, they’re not going to be available to care for patients.

Vocera can help.


Caregivers Shouldn’t Risk Contamination for Communication

Patients being treated for an infectious disease are subject to various transmission-based precautions: droplet, airborne, contact, etc. As a nurse wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), if you’re with a patient behind closed doors and you have an urgent need to contact someone, you’re in a tough position.

The room might have an intercom – but if your hands are busy with the patient, you have to interrupt your workflow to communicate. If the room doesn’t have an intercom, you need to leave the patient’s bedside, go to the anteroom between the patient room and the hallway, remove your PPE, then go out and ask for help or pick up a phone.

Every time you take on and off your PPE, there’s a chance you’re going to contaminate yourself; the less you have to do that, the better off you are.

If you have access to a clear, secure communication channel hands-free underneath the PPE, then you are truly safer; and in turn, the quality of patient care is enhanced. That’s where a Vocera Smartbadge or Badge worn under PPE becomes so valuable, whether you’re working in a triage tent, in the ICU, or in an isolation room in any other part of the hospital.

Whenever you’re in a situation where your hands are occupied or you’ve donned protective gear and you need to communicate, our wearable devices are ideal. You can reach people instantly without needing to know names, numbers, or who’s on call.


Optimizing Throughput and Capacity

Effective communication is essential for optimizing throughput and capacity, which are key to managing the patient surges anticipated from a pandemic of this scale. A hospital must be able to move patients through the continuum of care.

The number of isolation rooms is limited, and when those rooms are occupied, a bottleneck forms. That’s why, whether a patient tests positive or negative for COVID-19, it’s equally important that the assigned nurse and the infection prevention specialist are notified immediately. A patient who tests negative can be moved out of isolation to make the room available for another patient.

A hospital that doesn’t have its communication and clinical systems integrated faces the challenge of test results being routed to the electronic health record (EHR) and stagnating there. The nurse and the infection prevention specialist must repeatedly pour over the electronic records or query the lab to see if results are available. This is a barrier to throughput and it creates an unnecessary burden for care team members.

With the Vocera Platform, filtered, prioritized notifications such as an alert about a patient’s COVID-19 test results can be pushed from the EHR to the right care team member’s mobile device – whether it’s a hands-free wearable, or a smartphone running the Vocera app. Intelligently pushing notifications is another way Vocera technology helps reduce the toil and stress for care teams.


We’re Here for You

Our Vocera support teams are located around the globe and working 24×7 to help our customers through this crisis by providing remote and onsite services. We are here to take care of you as you continue to take care of your staff and patients; find contact information at our support portal. I encourage you to visit our COVID-19 resource page for resources and information such as guidance for cleaning the Badge and Smartbadge to avoid damaging the devices while following infection control best practices.

As a hospital IT or clinical leader, what are you experiencing? How can we help you prepare for and manage through this pandemic, and protect and empower your teams? I welcome you to reach out to me on LinkedIn.


About the Author

Benjamin Kanter, MD, FCCP, joined Vocera as Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) in January 2017. Prior to joining Vocera, Dr. Kanter worked as an industry consultant and thought leader with innovative healthcare IT companies, including Extension Healthcare, where he was most recently the CMIO. He previously served as Chief Medical Officer of Sotera® Wireless. Prior to that, he was the CMIO at Palomar Health in San Diego, where he spent seven years on the executive management team.

He is a published author and frequent speaker on how to seamlessly and securely integrate technology with medical practice.

Vocera (NYSE: VCRA) is publicly traded with the resources and fortitude to help ensure your success with our solutions over the long term.

This article by Dr. Ben Kanter was first published on the Vocera View blog.  

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The World Financial Review.