By Tim Thielen
Caregivers play a significant role in ensuring patient safety while under their care, but it is often a caregiver whose life or well-being is at stake. Fifty-seven nurses are assaulted every day—that’s two per hour. And yet, only 20%-60% of these types of events are reported. With increasing assaults casting a dark shadow over healthcare, technologies that help prioritize safety and care are needed more than ever.
Regulatory and legislative leaders, such as The Joint Commission, outline the standards for a comprehensive safety approach, prompting organizations to rethink their strategies in protecting those who devote themselves to patient care. Despite the headlines and call for standards, healthcare organizations are struggling to find comprehensive solutions to avert the increase in workplace violence.
Bridging strategy and technology to enhance the process
When developing your safety strategy, achieving a swift response that minimizes negative impacts to staff and patient experiences should be the targeted outcome. As clinical staff are taught to recognize when situations are becoming increasingly tense, empowering them with the right technology can make a significant difference.
As a healthcare technology leader for the past 20 years, I am focused on bringing innovative solutions to help address the violence problem against caregivers. While violence will never be 100% preventable, enabling caregivers with simple and connected technology solutions should be the cornerstone of any robust safety strategy. Real-time locating system (RTLS) technology with a duress badge, for example, provides a wearable option for clinical staff to initiate an alert for help that drives faster responses and more effective intervention.
Consider a duress event is taking place in your ED. A nurse presses their personal duress button, quietly signaling to security teams in real time who is in trouble, where they are located and when the event started. And while the ability to trigger a duress event notification and initiate a response is foundational to what RTLS can enable, that isn’t where the event resolution ends.
RTLS solutions should also provide full, real-time visibility to the location of all staff members. The location of the nurse needing help is important, but knowing the whereabouts of other caregivers, especially those in close proximity, is important to coordinate response efforts. Security personnel must know what they are walking into and where all other staff members are located, as an effective emergency response can’t be executed without understanding the full scope of the situation.
Utilizing technology to both initiate and guide the response for a duress event allows responders to act more efficiently and nursing staff to feel more confident about the help they will receive. This improved confidence amongst caregivers cultivates an atmosphere where the primary focus remains on providing exceptional care.
Creating a connected ecosystem with technology
RTLS, alarm systems, access controls, communication devices—these technologies can all play a role in supporting increased security, but how they work together to make your staff more efficient, whether in enabling the response or reporting, is foundational.
When considering the breadth of security technologies and how to incorporate them into the response process, there are many ways to utilize a duress signal initiated by RTLS. If a nurse is on the third floor and presses their duress button, the duress notification could also engage your security system to lock down the elevator. Or it could also trigger a facility-wide alarm, signaling to all staff members that someone needs help. Whether integrated directly or through middleware technology, connecting RTLS into your security ecosystem helps enable a more comprehensive response, reinforcing stronger safety processes.
Tracking and reporting events is also a critical component to reduce the violence curve. Regulatory agencies and insurance companies request detailed incident reporting, but the last thing on a nurse’s mind after a violent attack is filling out a form and reliving the traumatic experience. To eliminate unnecessary manual documentation and improve the mental health of your staff, duress technology should promptly collect and report back accurate information about the event.
This not only supports data compliance, but it’s also helpful in identifying trends that security teams can review to make more informed decisions for the future. The compilation of data-driven insights, risk assessment and smart monitoring systems provides a comprehensive evaluation of potential future risks. This foresight allows for proactive measures, such as directing security staffing levels and focus across different times of the day or days of the week, enabling teams to mitigate risks before they occur.
The pivotal aspect to realizing the full opportunity of safety technologies lies in the integration. Adding additional safety technologies without consideration for how they will come together always leads to a suboptimal outcome. To ensure that technology brings the maximum benefit, each new technology applied should add a layered benefit and integrate seamlessly into a connected healthcare safety ecosystem.
Safety is our responsibility
Our responsibility as healthcare leaders is clear: We must leverage advancements in technology to safeguard those who dedicate their lives to healing others. The alliance between technology and a safety strategy is not just a choice. It’s an indispensable step towards achieving a safer and more resilient healthcare environment. Choosing to prioritize caregiver safety is a commitment to ensuring the well-being of our healthcare heroes and the continued delivery of quality patient care. Establishing a technology-enabled, strategic plan for maximizing caregiver safety is not an option; it is a necessity.
Tim Thielen is the Senior Director of R&D for Midmark RTLS, leading hardware and software teams in the development and delivery of innovation for the Midmark real-time locating system (RTLS).