April 16, 2014

A Nashville hospital is testing a new mobile solution that allows all members of a critical care team to communicate with each other via smartphone.

TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center has been piloting Mobile Heartbeat’s CURE (Clinical Urgent REsponse) application since March as part of its iMobile Project. Physicians and nurses are using smartphones – either their own or ones supplied by the hospital – for clinical communications, including voice calls, texts, alarm notifications and sharing photographs, lab data and pertinent patient information.

Ron Remy, CEO of Woburn, Mass.-based Mobile Heartbeat, tells mHealth News the pilot is significant because it allows all members of the care team, no matter whether they’re in the hospital or what smartphone they’re using, to stay in touch. It’s ideal for health systems that have BYOD policies as well as those who supply smartphones to their staff, he said.

It also takes into mind the fact that a patient’s care team is dynamic, with doctors and nurses joining or dropping off on a daily basis. Care team members need only to log into the Mobile Heartbeat portal through the CURE app, then be granted access to the care team network.

“This makes sure that hospital staff are up-to-date and communicating with each other in real time,” Remy said.

Care team communication is a common issue among hospitals and health systems looking for alternatives to the time-tested overhead paging system or static computer-at-the-nurse’s-station approach. It’s also been the subject of a number of studies, most focusing on how smartphones and handheld devices may be used to facilitate real-time communication. Recently, Spyglass Consulting aired the results of a study which found that while doctors are using smartphones to keep in touch in the health setting, nurses are often left to use their own devices to connect with other members of the care team.

Remy said this project should show that all members of the care team, be they doctors, nurses or specialists, can benefit from a real-time communication platform. And it could grow much larger – TriStar Southern Hills is part of the Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), a 165-hospital network.

“Increasingly, physicians and other caregivers are using smartphones to access patient information, order tests, review lab results and for a variety of other applications that help them provide better, more efficient patient care,” added Jonathan B. Perlin, chief medical officer and president of HCA’s Clinical Services Group, in a press release. “Through this pilot at TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, Mobile Heartbeat CURE will help caregivers use smartphone technology that securely links with our clinical information systems.”

To learn how CURE might help TriStar Southern, officials could look to two other hospitals that have tested the technology.

According to Remy, Charlotte Huntington Hospital in Torrington, Conn., conducted a study that measured nurse steps and background noise. After using the CURE app for two weeks, he said, they measured again, and found that CURE had helped save nurses about one-eighth of a mile of walking per day, while reducing background noise by 9 decibels – the equivalent of moving a conversation from the laundry room to the living room.

Yale New Haven Hospital, meanwhile, determined that the CURE app helped reduce the time of conversation between doctors from 54 seconds to 17 seconds, Remy said.

In HCA’s case, Remy said, healthcare officials are looking at how CURE might help doctors and nurses stay connected across multiple facilities.

Remy said the biggest issue with health systems trying out CURE is the accuracy of their staff directories. Hospitals and health systems need to have up-to-date contact information for all members of the care team for this technology to work, he said. In addition, they have to rid themselves of the industry-wide belief that different hospitals and different departments of hospitals can silo their information.

“We’re hoping this will allow pushed information to get to the clinician where it matters most,” he said, “and that it can break down those barriers.”