January 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 1
IP-based Patient Care Solutions in Good Health
By: Erik Linask
In the United States, some 78 million baby boomers now approaching retirement have received a great deal of attention from various media outlets, largely because when the last boomer becomes eligible to receive a Social Security check, there will be an estimated 70 million people over the age of 65, double the current count (see chart). Government statistics show that many of tomorrow’s baby boomer retirees will not be as well off financially as their parents, which will ultimately create a need for additional housing to care for these individuals, according to the American Society on Aging.
The trend of increasing life expectancy means more retirees living with chronic conditions, placing increasing demand on healthcare services, including acute care, assisted living, hospitals, and medical/dental offices that have not traditionally deployed infrastructure to help keep pace with this growing influx of patients. Information Technology (IT) has revolutionized most industries, but the healthcare sector is among last to embrace the full benefits of IT. Gartner estimates that, while the financial services industry spends more than seven percent of its total budget on IT, healthcare only allocates three percent.
IgeaCare Systems is a Canadian provider, specializing in communications solutions for the healthcare and public safety verticals. It offers nurse call systems, emergency response mass notification, personal emergency solutions, telemedicine, and real-time healthcare locator solutions from a single source that integrates seamlessly with existing VoIP technology and multi-vendor communications systems, which are becoming the norm.
Recently, IgeaCare expanded its U.S. operations, including increased capital investment and commitment of resources in order to better address the growing demands of healthcare providers and its own channel partners.
“IgeaCare has a robust distribution channel for its technology, and has completed compliance testing and certification with Avaya, Mitel, Inter-Tel, Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel, Toshiba, Panasonic, Samsung, 3Com, and NEC,” said Craig Steen, newly appointed president of IgeaCare, USA, Inc. “Its products are also sold by Bell Canada and Verizon.”
Given the statistics, long-term care and assisted living facilities are likely to see an increased presence, particularly those that foster environments where residents have the opportunity to interact with others and partake in various activities.
“But, it goes without saying, patient safety, emergency response, and patient interaction and response solutions are the foremost requirements,” said Robert Abrams, a New York-based healthcare industry consultant and legal expert.
Indeed, the next generation of elderly Americans will have significantly different behavioral patterns than today’s, and most will prefer to have their lifestyles remain intact as much as possible. That will place increased demand on healthcare providers in order to support those needs, and will likely drive an increasing trend of hotels converting into assisted living communities, and the continued growth of high-end luxury retirement projects.
When Daniel Lemay of the Lemay Group decided to build another retirement home project, he chose to emphasize just those types of demands, focusing on emergency response and high quality patient care.
Upon considering several alternatives, Lemay Group chose IgeaCare’s Nurse Call/Emergency Response solution, because it addressed the simplicity needed for patient satisfaction and interaction with the emergency response. Importantly, it also provided all the elements in a single-vendor solution.
“Other traditional nurse call solutions were not future-friendly nor scalable, and required independent proprietary solutions to meet all of our needs,” said Lemay. “From a total cost of ownership perspective the IgeaCare solution required little or no additional cabling, which reduced costs, but provided five nines reliability and future-friendliness, in addition to seamless integration to leverage our Avaya communication platform.”
In Canada, the owners of condo complex, Notre Dame Retirement Home, decided to develop a new high-end senior residence on the property adjacent to the existing complex in Laval, Quebec. Phase I of the newly opened project consists of 193 units in a 16-story tower, with Phase II in construction, and three additional buildings planned. Once complete, the facility will create a new standard for luxury senior dwellings and services.
Based on previous experiences, consultant Ghislain Boulay, who specializes in senior living planning, recommended an integrated solution from Mondial Lifeguard Technologies, a division of IgeaCare Systems, to provide the resident emergency call system in each apartment and within the numerous common areas of the facility.
Novavision, a local dealer, was selected to manage all the telecommunications and maintain a high level of security and generate added revenue services, in addition to implementing the Lifeguard emergency response system to a Samsung OS7400 IP switch.
Lifeguard installed the wireless equipment, activated two-way voice EMUs (Emergency Monitoring Units), plus remote transmitters, which residents wear either as a pendant or bracelet, to call for assistance, in each apartment. Apartments also included either a wireless pull cord or wireless wall mounted activator in each bathroom. Each EMU has its own backup battery power, and was uniquely programmed for each apartment so, when activated, it uses voice chip technology to provide its location to staff responders. They also include full duplex, two-way voice communication between the staff and residents.
But, because these facilities are specifically designed for active residents, EMUs have also been deployed in common areas to provide emergency response capabilities throughout the facility.
In addition to providing complete coverage, the mobility staff are afforded with the wireless technology and SpectraLink Link 3000 handsets add even greater efficiency and customization capabilities to their system.
With the implementation of IgeaCare’s Nurse Call/Emergency Response solution, “we drastically cut down the time required by staff to fulfill resident requests, reducing the need to answer call bells by 50 percent due to residents’ ability to see the integrated menu and activity features. Overhead paging was eliminated, creating a calmer living environment and workplace, while increasing our patient and staff satisfaction, which is critical,” explained Elizabeth Domoulin, administrator for Cobblestone Gardens Retirement Residence in Ontario, another facility that opted for the IgeaCare solution.
Another key sector looking to leverage new technology to enhance patient care is acute care hospitals, which are also feeling pressure to meet new demands from growing populations.
For instance, University Physician’s Hospital (UPH) in Tucson, Arizona has expanded its campus and wanted to deploy technology to enhance patient satisfaction and patient safety. Importantly, UPH needed a solution that would easily integrate with its exitsing Avaya Communications Manager and 6400 series phones.
IgeaCare’s Nurse Call/Emergency Response solution allowed UPH to connect to an allocated port on the Avaya solution to add health specific communications, such as emergency pull cords in bathrooms. The solution also integrated a plug-in for mobility for SpectraLink’s Link 3000 wireless devices, so that caregivers are able to act and react more efficiently and without jeopardizing patient care or personalization.
Although the Avaya switch functions as the core communications element, the IgeaCare Total Nurse Call solution also provides for an event notification system (apoloENS) that resides on its own server, while providing additional visual notification and several staff assignment interfaces. The real-time event notification messages can be viewed from any visual display, and includes intuitive features that substantially increase response effectiveness.
UPH staff members say, “We like the on-demand reporting capability and how easy the drag-and-drop assignments are to make. We also like the two-way voice capability and the ability to text messages on the phones when we need to reach various nurses.”
Indeed, it is not uncommon for nurses to be contacted when they are already on the phone, making it difficult to respond. With the text-capable handsets and communications solution, they are now able to receive text messages, and can then connect easily to the calling party when they are available.
As with any new solution, customers are keen on deploying those that will meet their functional requirements, but will help reduce costs as well.
With its IgeaCare solution, UPH was able to cut its cost per adjusted census bed significantly over its former supplier, while adding functional enhancements. Furthermore, the addition of the IgeaCare platform makes is easier for UPH to expand to new buildings as it looks to double its patient capacity in the upcoming year.
“We have been able to integrate security and asset management systems onto our IgeaCare management tool. This single monitoring point has allowed us to reduce staff by two FTEs, while improving our response time to alarms and tracking requirements,” says a UPH administrator.
Given the expected growth rates among various kinds of healthcare facilities, solutions like IgeaCare’s are certain to experience a marked increase in demand in the coming years. They provide communications enhancements, and enable providers to provide exceptional patient care, increasing patient and family satisfaction, while reducing costs and meeting market demands for services. IT
For more information about IgeaCare, Systems/IgeaCare USA go to http://www.igeacare.com. For more information regarding healthcare benchmarks go to http://www.himss.com or for retirement benchmarks go to http://www.myziva.com.
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