Hands-Free Technology Enhances Care at Runnymede

March 01, 2018

​A new voice-activated technology streamlines collaboration among clinical staff at Runnymede Healthcare Centre by enabling hands-free mobile conversations. Communication badges were recently implemented at the hospital to support efficient, coordinated care for some of the most complex patients in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By leveraging the new technology, Runnymede has increased its responsiveness to patients' needs, enhanced safety and elevated the patient experience.

Worn on lanyards, the badges recognize voice commands and respond by allowing staff to easily start conversations or receive incoming calls. "The technology is lightweight enough to be comfortably worn at all times, so staff are always accessible during their shifts," said Runnymede's Vice President, Patient Care, Chief Nursing Executive & Chief Privacy Officer, Raj Sewda. "All they have to do is say the name of a person or department into their badge, and a conversation can start."

Prior to the badges' roll-out, clinical staff used mobile phones to communicate. Although practical, they were not ideal because staff often handle clinical instruments while treating patients. Hands-free badges enable staff members to talk with each other without interfering with the hands-on care they are providing. The badges' ease of use also promotes increased collaboration among members of the clinical team.

This enhanced collaboration strengthens safety at Runnymede. If a patient has care needs that must be met urgently, the rapid communication facilitated by hands-free badges makes it possible for clinical team members to call others for support, or to quickly ask for additional supplies – all without ever leaving the patient's side or interrupting their care. If the staff member they wish to reach is on their break, the system automatically sends the call to a designated back-up.

To further strengthen patient safety, badges will soon be linked to the hospital's nurse call system. "Before badges were implemented, it was only possible for nurses to be notified about patient calls through a digital display, and they had to go to the patient's room in order to talk with them," said Runnymede's Director of Patient Care, Frederick Go. "Now we have the technology for notifications to be triggered on the badge worn by the patient's assigned nurse, who will soon be able to speak with the patient immediately after pressing their call button, to find out what they need and respond accordingly."

The badges are currently integrated with the hospital's main phone system, providing family members with a direct line to the clinical team if they have any questions. "When a family member phones Runnymede, they're able to access our voice-activated system, and by simply saying the room and bed number of their loved one, they can be connected to the nurse who is assigned to them," said Go. "This provides families with convenient access to our clinical team members whenever they need it." If discussions are confidential and not suited to an open-air conversation, staff are trained to protect the patient's privacy by switching the badge's mode so that it works like a conventional mobile phone.

Runnymede anticipates the badges' recent implementation will support its delivery of safe, high-quality care. "The technology vastly simplifies communication and increases the accessibility of our clinical team, which benefits patients, families and staff alike," says Sewda. "It's an excellent tool for strengthening collaboration and enhancing our responsiveness to patients' needs."

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