The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

2003 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Success of a Wireless Telephone System at a Large Medical Center

Hal Ungerleider, RRT, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA  

Introduction: Hospitals are always trying to improve ways in which health care healthcare professionals communicate with one another. In the 1980's, physicians started using pagers so thatwhere health care providers could contact them at any time. In the early 1990's, other health care healthcare professioprofessionals started using pagers. In the mid 1990's, a wireless phone system (WPS) was developed to reduce the time needed to contact one another. Unlike domestic and cell telephones, the WPS does not interfere with sensitive medical equipment. The WPS makes it possible for health care healthcare providers to be at the bedside and speak with others without leaving the patient. Prior to 2002, when paging a Respiratory Care Practitioner (RCP) in the University of Washington Medical Center, a nurse (RN) had to call the paging operator, who then paged the RCP. When returning the page, the RCP reached the unit clerk who then overhead paged the RN. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the utility and the amount of time saved by using the WPS for RNs and RCPs in our hospital.

Method: 34 RCPs and four nursing units (one medicine, two surgical and one short stay) who were interested were selected to participate in the study. Each nursing unit had 60 to 80 RNsAn initial survey was designed to identify the level of satisfaction with the current method for contacting health care healthcare professionals. The initial survey was completed by 70 RCPs and RNs and the final survey was completed by 84 RCPs and RNs. Based on the survey results, the WPS was installed throughout the hospital. The participants were provided with 60 WPS telephones for two months. Each nursing unit was assigned specific phones for use on their unit.

Data: The table below identifies the participants level of satisfaction both prior to the WPS and two months after its installation. 

Satisfied with current system?

Never  Seldom  Occasionally Frequently  Always Total Responses

Pre (pager)  2.8%  11.4% 37%  42%  5%  70

Post (phone)  0%  1.1% 7%  53%  38% 84

At the follow-up survey, 89-95% of the participants reported an improvement in the efficiency of their communication with WPS. On average, each group reported saving 28 minutes per shift with the new system. In addition, no system failures were reported during the trial. 

CONCLUSION: With this technology both patient care and user acceptance improved. We know that patient care is improved when the RN or a RCP does not need to leave the bedside to make a call to a physician. A RCP wrote in the comment section that they were able to be at the patient bedside quicker, because they were able to start moving to the patient while getting more information about their condition.  

Overall, the health care healthcare professionals were more satisfied with the new telephone system than their previous paging methods. With continued use, healthcare professionals can save thousands of hours each year, ultimately saving hundreds of thousands of dollars for the facility and improving the overall efficiency of their workplace. At our hospital we have 7 RCP working per shift. There are 14 shifts per week, if each one saved 15 minutes per shift the RCP staff would save 24.5 hours per week. If the Average RCP makes 20 dollars per hour then there would be an estimated savings of $490/week or $25,480/year. This initial figure is specific to the RCP staff and doesn't even begin to touch upon the savings that could be gained when other professionals start using the phones.

Although the staff was happy with the WPS, there was some concern about the size of the phone and its inability to store the last incoming number.  

In conclusion, patient care is the number one priority in any health care healthcare institution. When healthcare professionals are able to spend more time with patients, a higher level of satisfaction as well as quality of care can be established between patients, families, and staff.

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