How Hospitals Can Minimize Risks of Downtime in Patient Care Technologies

Posted by Frank Grant, President on July 14, 2017

patient care.jpgTechnology is increasingly vital to providing top-notch care for patients, but every technology is subject to failure. Whether it’s a system malfunction, a server error or a storage problem, hospitals always face the potential of downtime. When it comes to technologies used in patient rooms, downtime is not only inconvenient, but also life-threatening.

Over a period of three years, a large healthcare system in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. reported 76 downtime incidents that shut down the functionality of its electronic health record system and resulted in patient safety risks, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA). The risks to patient safety included delays in receiving medication and needed care, difficulty tracking and identifying lab specimens, and delayed or neglected reporting on procedures.

While many of these issues stemmed from facility-wide technology failures, even downtime in technology in a single patient room can have a negative impact on a patient as well as on the hospital’s bottom line. When technologies are stalled, hospital personnel must make calls to hunt down a local repair person and wait for that person to arrive and fix the system, often incurring huge repair costs in the process. When hospitals are using technologies produced by multiple vendors, it can take even more time for the repair person to evaluate the system and figure out where the glitch is coming from.

In the meantime, patients must be stabilized, and necessary treatment may be delayed. In the case of technical problems with nurse call systems, it could be hours or longer before hospital personnel even realize the system isn’t working—and days before a technician is available to repair it. During that lag, patients are not only without quick access to nurses when they need them, but patient satisfaction inevitably drops.

How Hospitals Cope With Downtime

As the AMIA study illustrated, clinicians tend to develop their own work-around processes for continuing to provide care while technology is down. For example, they may create their own methods to track patients, using an offline computer and printer to create labels for lab specimens. When the nurse call system is down, nurses may institute more frequent check-ins to see if their patients need anything. As shifts change and other tasks demand nurses’ time, however, these work-arounds may not be effective for keeping track of each patient’s needs.

Research shows that many hospitals lack downtime procedures—or if they have them, many fail to follow them. With the growing incidents of cyberattacks and natural disasters, hospitals should always prepare for technology downtime. Proper preparation includes developing downtime procedures, tailoring paper processes to fill temporary needs, and communicating procedures with clinical teams that may be affected. Technology tools that broadly and deeply monitor the IT environment across technologies in a hospital can also be useful for avoiding downtime in the first place.

24/7 Remote Support With Amplion

Hospitals using the Amplion Alert platform have an innovative tool to help them handle downtime in their nurse call system. Amplion recently unveiled its new Overwatch tool, which provides 24-hour technical and operations security support. Overwatch constantly monitors the health of the system and provides the capability to identify and remotely troubleshoot problems when necessary, eliminating the need for hospitals to make local service calls or pay huge repair bills to fix issues.

The tech support tool offers a combination of live and tech-driven support. Not only does Overwatch continuously monitor every Amplion component in every patient room in every hospital, but customer support representatives are on call around the clock to answer questions and address issues.

If a component is not working properly, the hospital is alerted, and Amplion techs can remote in to diagnose the problem and start the repair process. Because every hospital site has spare parts, a staff representative can remove the screws, replace the component, reboot the room and get it back up and running within minutes.

“It used to be that when hospitals secured new technology, they had to endure the inevitable service process with agonizingly slow and costly repairs when a problem occurred,” says David Condra, founder and executive chairman of Amplion. “Overwatch ensures our next-gen nurse call system is always working as it should and decreases a hospital’s dependency on local or regional outside tech support. With the maximum operational availability of Amplion Alert, hospitals are able to focus more on delivering the highest quality patient care and not on fixing problems.” 

Schedule a free consultation with us to learn more about Overwatch and other smart technology features offered through our Amplion Alert platform, which combines advanced nurse call, care collaboration tools, alarm management, reporting and data analytics into a single tool to help hospitals track, manage and improve the patient care experience.  

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