Cisco Aims to Improve Nurse Communications

A survey commissioned by Cisco shows that patient care can be hindered and hours wasted by poor communications technologies for nurses. The vendor wants to change that with the Cisco Nurse Connect solution, which integrates nurse communications applications onto Cisco's wireless IP phones. The Cisco offering will help nurses improve communications with patients and caregivers, and reduce the amount of time nurses have to spend tracking down information from other people.

Cisco Systems is looking to improve communications capabilities for nurses.

At the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Conference in Chicago April 6, Cisco unveiled its Cisco Nurse Connect solution, which integrates nurse call applications from third-party vendors with Cisco's Unified Wireless IP 7925G phones that will enable nurses to send call alerts to caregivers. For example, Cisco is integrating the Responder line of nurse communications applications from Rauland-Borg into the phone.

Among other tasks, the Responder applications integrate the newest communications technologies-such as wireless phones and pagers-with traditional nurse call equipment, and offer a network-based solution that can be accessed via a PC to help with such jobs as scheduling, bed management, and real-time staff and patient information.

Cisco officials said the 7925G phones were designed to support safety and biohazard requirements of hospitals, including a battery that can be used for up to 13 hours before a recharge is needed, and Bluetooth support so nurses can use them in a hands-free mode. The phones also are hermetically sealed.

Cisco unveiled the Cisco Nurse Connect offering the same day the company released results of a survey-commissioned by Cisco and conducted by Zogby International-that showed problems for patients, doctors and nurses resulting from poor communication capabilities.

According to the survey of 250 nurses, 86 percent of them said they waste at least 2 hours each shift chasing down people to get information. About 48 percent said the top communications need is improved ability to find out the location and availability of care team members.

About 60 percent said they work 10 hours of overtime a week to make up for time lost trying to track down other people in the hospital.

In addition, 92 percent of nurses surveyed said there is a medium to high impact on patient safety due to communication lapses, and 19 percent said they could better avoid patient care errors with better communications devices.

Cisco officials said its new solution for nurses improves the situation by giving nurses two-way communications with patients and the ability to then send requests to heath care personnel after consulting with the patient. It also cuts down the time nurses have to spend walking to and from the nursing stations.

"Our survey clearly shows that by improving communications, hospitals can directly improve quality of care and even their bottom line," Kaveh Safavi, vice president for the Global Healthcare Practice in Cisco's Internet Business Solutions Group, said in a statement. "Equipping nurses with the information they need, at the time it's needed, will help hospitals realize significant time and cost savings as well as improved patient care."