Designing Healthcare Facilities with Mass Notification in Mind

By Pat Scheckel / Special to Healthcare Facilities Today
September 4, 2020

Healthcare facilities can be chaotic places. Patient and visitor needs, crisis events, staff coordination and more can all make communication challenging. Getting the right message to the right person at the right time can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s important to have facilities that are designed to make emergency communications easy now and in the future. Mass notification systems can help healthcare organizations communicate more effectively to minimize disruptions and deliver exceptional patient care. 

When it comes to effective communications, there are a number of considerations a healthcare facility must take into account. From where communication devices will be placed, to what kind of message formats will be used, each decision will impact how quickly someone receives a message and takes action. Mass notification systems can help healthcare facilities expand the speed and reach of messages all while using technology many healthcare organizations have already invested in. This helps keep costs down while adding value to existing devices and systems.

Mass notification systems offer a number of ways to reach people with important information whether that be a Code Blue page, violent intruder alerts, or other crises that requires people to seek shelter or ask for assistance. These systems also offer flexible options for healthcare facilities to reach people via on-premises and mobile devices, as well as create groups and zones to target messages so the right people receive the information they need. 

For example, if a crisis is happening at a facility, it may not be necessary to notify staff who are not working at that time. Administrators can create groups for specific shifts so no one is unnecessarily alerted. Or imagine a family waiting in a facility for a loved one to come out of a critical surgery. The last thing they need to hear during this difficult time is an emergency page that they have no idea whether or not it is related to the person they are concerned about. Creating quiet zones using a mass notification system can help send critical pages that avoid certain sensitive areas of a facility like visitor waiting rooms.

Those messages can be delivered in a number of ways to wide variety of devices. Depending on the situation, it may make sense to alert everyone throughout an entire building, while other circumstances may call for alerting a smaller group in a particular wing or on a specific floor. IP phones, IP speakers, digital signage and desktop computers can all be used within a facility to deliver text and audio notifications to help grab people’s attention so they can respond quickly to an incident. For people outside of a facility, SMS text, push notifications, and email can be sent to mobile devices to call for additional assistance or caution people to avoid a particular area. The more channels used, the sooner someone is likely to receive a notification.

Designing a powerful mass notification solution for a healthcare facility can also extend beyond the physical space of a building or campus. Connecting everyone through a central hub on the backend can save time and headaches when it comes to triggering messages. With a mass notification system, healthcare organizations can connect their different devices and systems so everything works seamlessly through a single system. This means administrators don’t need to worry about logging in and out of different tools to get messages out, which can be a cumbersome and ineffective process. This can extend beyond devices that deliver communications to other internet of things devices in place within a facility. For example, electronic door locks can be activated along with a notification to help keep people protected from potential danger. 

This connectivity can also extend to triggering notifications. Requiring someone be in front a computer console to trigger a message is not ideal when an emergency occurs. They need accessible, easy-to-use options so people are alerted about an event as soon as possible. Those same devices used to deliver alerts can also be used to trigger them. Virtual panic buttons configured on an IP phone or physical panic buttons installed in key areas can offer staff a discrete way to signal for assistance. Keyboard shortcuts can be configured on desktop computers to achieve similar functionality. In the case of a violent intruder this be beneficial as it does not alert the intruder that help is on the way. A mobile app also offers the freedom of triggering an alert the moment someone see a situation unfolding.

The ultimate goal of any healthcare organization is to deliver excellent patient care. Designing a healthcare facility with mass notification in mind will help create a secure environment and establish a solid foundation for communications so people can get the assistance they need no matter the situation. 

Pat Scheckel is Vice President of Product Management at Singlewire Software

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