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Nurse Call and Beyond: Automation in Healthcare

Emerging Technologies in Critical Messaging

Critical messaging in healthcare began with a bell on a bedside table for patients to ring when they needed a staff member. Nurse Call and paging has evolved since then to feature multi-system integration and a wide range of flexible destinations such as an encrypted Smartphone Messaging app. However, critical messaging systems haven’t changed in their fundamental purpose: They are designed to save lives and keep people comfortable. The best systems send time critical information about patients and residents to the correct staff member, on the best device, in the most efficient form so that immediate action can be taken. The fantastic byproduct of this is that it also increases efficiency, which allows more time for quality, face to face patient care from staff. These are two factors that will continue to shape critical communication technology development into the future.

Critical Communication System aim to save lives and enable comfortable lives for residents

Today automation is commanding the world’s attention. In healthcare fully-automated robots can already perform time and labour-intensive tasks. In some aged care facilities they deliver laundry and meals to specified locations, which frees up staff to do other, higher value activities. However, when it comes to saving lives and increasing efficiency, not every facility needs their own “Wall-E” or “Eva” robot. In an interview Adam Rowson, Sales and Marketing Manager at Xacom, explained how aged care facilities are benefitting from the utilisation of ‘resident profiles’.

Wall-e Disney's 2008 science fiction film

These profiles are designed for ‘resident monitoring’, a term for the care of residents experiencing dementia symptoms, diminished cognitive functioning or reduced mobility. Each profile is tailored to a particular resident, using non-invasive sensors to collect data about the residents’ habits and then alert staff when an activity outside the pre-set parameters is triggered. This technology allows for an increased sensitivity to a resident’s state, without requiring constant staff observation of the person. This not only allows a higher level of care and safety, but in addition residents are enabled to live relatively uninterrupted, independent and dignified lives.

Diagram representing how Resident Profiling works in dementia care

Above: How ‘Resident Profiling’ works in care for people experiencing symptoms of dementia. Source Xacom.

Resident monitoring has also been used by one of our clients for another more unexpected benefit. As behavioural data is collected and analysed, the resulting data reports can be used to identify symptoms of pain, illness or infection. Behaviours such as repeated trips to the bathroom, tossing in one’s sleep, endlessly walking around the room and resting for unusually long time periods can all be indicators that something needs attention. Identifying these symptoms early can allow staff to take preventative measures and ensure the safety and greater comfort of residents. A client of ours, one of Australia’s foremost aged care providers, uses resident profiles and the information gathered from multiple different systems to better understand resident behaviour and improve their care. They are excited about using the tailored and reliable data collected through their resident monitoring software to identify crises before they happen.


"They are excited about using ... resident monitoring software to identify crises before they happen."

Perhaps by the time some of us retire we will have our own personal robot to make and deliver our morning coffee. Perhaps not. What we do know though is that, as technology continues to develop, new ways will be found to keep people safe and improve efficiency. Nothing ever replaces face to face care, but automation can help deliver it to where and when it is needed the most.

If you would like to discuss Resident Monitoring or another solution for your facility, please leave your details below and we will be touch soon.

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Wearing their Masks

If you work in an office in Victoria you might have gone back to work towards the end of last year and then stopped wearing a mask shortly afterwards. As Victoria entered another snap lockdown, I found my mask crumpled in the back of a drawer, unworn for weeks. Yet our healthcare workers have rarely left ‘the office’, some working unusually long hours since this time last year. And their masks haven’t come off either.

It’s no secret that healthcare workers face higher risks of anxiety, mental health issues and burn out than most other industries in this crisis:

  • During the first half of 2020, a government study showed that healthcare workers had almost three times the risk of contracting the virus than other citizens.
 
COVID19 has had significant effects on the mental health of Healthcare Workers

Image: Xacom 2021

One doctor and his team in Melbourne’s Western Suburbs was tasked with treating elderly COVID19 infected patients:

“We worked 10 – 20 hours of overtime each week” he said, “the hospital was also at the point of having almost all new admissions – all suspected COVID – and not much capacity to look after patients presenting with anything else.” 

He reflected on the stress he felt when sending his junior doctors into contact with infected patients and worse still was the fact that they were all working so hard but knew there was little they could do. Many of those patients passed away. 

At Xacom our claim is that ‘we care as much as you do’ and we’re setting ourselves an extremely high bar. How can you care as much as a health care worker during a pandemic? But this is the bar we’re reaching for. We’re aware that our clients are pretty much saving the world right now and our support needs to be like breathing – so complete and automated that it can be taken for granted. 


"...our support needs to be
like breathing-
so complete and automated
that it can be taken for granted"

Recently at the Xacom office we held a fundraiser called PPE day. We wore PPE – well, dress up PPE including disposable rain coats and shower caps – to experience a little of what it’s like working in it all day, everyday. Of course our little taster was nothing like actually working in a COVID19 ward, but it gave us a prompt to reflect on how our healthcare workers might be feeling as they work double shifts, struggle to sleep from stress and sit with patients whose loved ones couldn’t be with them as they passed. Of course most health care workers I know don’t complain much and just get on with the job, but we don’t want to take that for granted. 

Image: Xacom’s PPE Day Fundraiser – Xacom 2021

This isn’t the only way Xacom has been trying to walk in our clients’ shoes – or ‘working in our clients’ disposable gloves’ if you like. Xacom’s executive chairman, Matt Kirwan-Hamilton expresses it like this: “The first step has always got to be understanding the client’s needs and challenges. That’s when we can work together to develop the solution they really need, rather than give a product we already have.” An example is Xacom’s recent work with a major Melbourne hospital, developing a Smartphone Messaging Solution, to address the unnecessary complexity faced by healthcare workers when communicating with multiple different devices.

"The first step has always got to be understanding the client's needs and challenges. That's when we can work together to develop the solution they really need..."

In a time where the Australian healthcare industry faces some of its greatest challenges, providers need to show understanding, care and know what it’s like to walk in the shoes of nurses and doctors – or more literally, know what it’s like to wear their masks.

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