This article explores the key drivers behind modern nurse call system design
The need to provide audit trails, ease of maintenance, and increased interest in wireless communications are key factors continuing to drive the design of modern nurse call systems for hospitals and care homes.
Far from the traditional push-button and bell systems, new solutions coming onto the market are providing a plethora of other functions, including integrating with building management systems.
Wireless solutions mean that, not only is set-up easier, but where hospitals are constantly evolving and estates must be flexible, you can locate these systems anywhere and then move them without needing to rewire the room
Ease of maintenance is a key driver for research and development, with wireless systems becoming the norm in most hospitals and social care facilities.
A spokesman for supplier, Aid Call, said: “Current pressures facing the healthcare sector have led to the wider adoption of wireless nurse call systems.
“Unlike their hardwired counterparts, wireless systems offer low-cost and undisruptive installations that can be completed quickly and cleanly on a working ward.
“They also allow for easy expansion into the future.”
Aid Call’s cutting-edge XBee wireless system utilises an adaptable, two-way radio network, which directs all calls via the quickest and safest route because each device acts as a communicative node.
This ensures calls get through, even in the event of a component failure, with reassurance lights on each device confirming to the user that their call has been received.
This switch in focus is also behind the latest products from Stanley Security.
As with any long-term capital investment, hospital trusts and care home owners need to be reassured that the solution not only fulfils the needs today, but can also be relied upon to last and evolve alongside new technologies, medical procedures, and political circumstances for a number of years to come
Stanley’s Mike Thorpe said its Gemini Nurse Call system also relies on radio technology, eliminating the need for wires and making it easier to install in working hospitals and other care environments.
He added: “With nurse call development it is all about agile working.
“Wireless solutions mean that, not only is set-up easier, but where hospitals are constantly evolving and estates must be flexible, you can locate these systems anywhere and then move them without needing to rewire the room, causing disruption and incurring high costs.”
Nurse call systems used in hospitals are designed in line with the Health Technical Memorandum (08-03), published in 2013. It outlines the expected standards and best practice of modern healthcare bedhead technology.
To comply, it dictates that a nurse call system should be ‘designed and installed in a manner that allows for simple and economic adaption, amendment, maintenance or addition of services’.
It also includes guidelines on hygiene, safety and functionality.
Wireless systems, such as Aid Call's X-Bee are becoming increasingly popular
David Hewitt of Courtney Thorne, which has launched the next-generation Altra Nurse Call system, said: “As with any long-term capital investment, hospital trusts and care home owners need to be reassured that the solution not only fulfils the needs today, but can also be relied upon to last and evolve alongside new technologies, medical procedures, and political circumstances for a number of years to come.
Cost is often the overwhelming factor that needs consideration, and this is where wireless solutions will always win in new-build applications
“Satisfying the CQC in terms of a solution, its operation and reporting available is crucial, but the buying decision needs to go way beyond basic statutory requirements.
“Cost is often the overwhelming factor that needs consideration, and this is where wireless solutions will always win in new-build applications.
“In terms of system upgrades, here again wireless is a far-more-cost-effective solution when compared to adding new hardware to 20-year-old wiring.”
Key design interventions include the increased use of touch-screen technology. This means systems can include more innovative features.
For example, Aid Call’s Touchsafe Pro enables staff to easily programme reminders or medication calls, apply differing night and day modes, and create separate nurse profiles, all at the touch of a button.
Additionally, creating an audit trail is vital.
Thorpe explains: “If you have an elderly family member in a hospital or rest home and they say they haven’t seen anyone all day or all week and have been on their own sad and lonely, you can look at the system and can see a nurse was present at these particular times and the person was checked on regularly.
Courtney Thorne has launched the next-generation Altra Nurse Call system
“As much as we do not want to think about it, we care moving into more of a blame culture and it’s important for care operators to be able to provide indisputable data.”
This audit trail can also help to pinpoint where problems are in order to improve services.
Because of the way technology has progressed there are some really-good location-based products, and so much more that they can do in the future
Thorpe said: “Making the technology more agile means that, when an alert comes in, someone has to take responsibility for it.
“Using a smart device, a person can accept the call. It can even go to the nearest person with the particular skillset needed for the job, and, through the same system, the person can then call for assistance if necessary.”
This technology is being specified more often in social care environments as it can help to keep track of vulnerable residents.
“We often use our technology in conjunction with other manufacturers’ products,” said Thorpe.
“You can use the nurse call system to see if a person is in their bed, or if they have left the environment.
“Where someone has dementia, or a mental health problem, you may want to monitor where they are and modern nurse call systems can do this.
“They can even monitor things like heart rate and blood pressure and report back.”
Hewitt said: “With the addition of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPRS connectivity, data can be collected from a multitude of devices in the hospital or care home, delivered to secure servers hosting the same algorithms with users accessing management information on any connected device, anywhere via a dash board portal.”
Systems like these are particularly useful as people with dementia often cannot use traditional nurse call handsets and may be prone to wandering.
“We have designed handsets specifically for mentally-handicapped children using acoustic monitoring technology which listens for pre-programmed parameters and then notifies those in charge,” said Thorpe.
“For example, they might raise an alert when they sense a certain behaviour, such as shouting or other noises.
“Because of the way technology has progressed there are some really-good location-based products, and so much more that they can do in the future.”
Aid Call has made its systems compatible with a range of telecare devices to enable the same technology to be utilised. These include pendants, movement sensors, pressure mats, epilepsy monitors, and environmental sensors.
“In the future, it is likely development will continue in this direction, integrating even more technology into the handsets, including fire alarms and other building sensors,” said Thorpe.
Looking at potential improvements in the future, Hewitt added: “There is a ground swell in wearables, especially for dementia sufferers.
“Here, solutions need to react to the environment if the wearer strays and to their personal situation if they fall, for example.
“Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and mobile data are all communication mediums available to provide connectivity for these solutions.
“There are still some challenges, though, for manufacturers to address, notably battery life with portable and wearable devices and making sure they are recharged.
“And there is the age-old problem of making sure that the patient or resident is wearing the device at all times.”