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Improving Emergency Response: The Digital Transformation of Hospital Communication

Improving Emergency Response: Replacing Crash Bleeps

Quick Introduction

Enhancing hospital staff coordination helps lower the chance of miscommunication (since poor communication accounts for 70% of sentinel events), has a favourable effect on patient wait times, and boosts staff morale. A digital substitute that has the advantage of statistics to demonstrate the changes that may be made is gradually replacing the conventional method of responding to emergency calls—often referred to as crash calls.

Voices of change resonate from figures like John Wintour-Pittom, Head of Ops for Telecoms at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust & Chelsea and Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, and Helen Pardoe, CCIO at Princess Alexandra Healthcare Trust. Their insights into the transition from legacy systems to the Alertive digital messaging solution provide a compelling narrative of progress and efficiency.

John Wintour-Pittom said, “In late November 22, we started dual running by broadcasting emergencies on Alertive and the legacy systems simultaneously. Alertive was faster at broadcasting and gave the Switchboard confidence that the roles required for the emergency were receiving messages through the acknowledgement feature. We ended dual running by February 23 for one acute site and June 23 for the other six sites, achieving a long-held ambition to be bleep-free. Our Operators also love that if they ever had to evacuate, they pick up their departmental mobiles and can activate emergency teams from those devices on the move”.

Helen Pardoe said, “We have removed all of our bleeps, including for emergency alerts or 2222s. Since we have removed our bleeps entirely, we have had no significant incidents due to the change and our on-call teams are better equipped to share information, respond faster and are more organised.”

Problems experienced

Trusts that use bleeps for emergency calls experience several issues. Challenges associated with working effectively include delays experienced in assembling teams, quickly identifying and contacting specialists to consult remotely or to attend physically, and time spent coordinating how to transfer patients between departments. 

Additionally, there are several system issues associated with using bleeps and long-range pagers, including the constant churn of devices between the hospital site and the supplier’s repair centre, which leads to ever-decreasing reliability as units are simply patched up and frequent issues with transmitters often only being identified when outages occur. The lack of historical records of time stamps and limited reporting are also significant issues.

With a bleep, there is no confidence that the role you require is carrying an operational device until you try, usually in an urgent or critical situation. This knowledge can only be inferred by a lack of response, significantly affecting key targets such as maintaining 4-hour wait times.

Innovation in Action 

Eighteen hospitals have now implemented Alertive, a digital messaging solution, across their organisation and have evidence to demonstrate its outperformance for crash calls and other areas. 

As Alertive is a modern digital product that has been designed for all major platforms and is available on Trust and personal devices, it means that all members of staff can use the same system and are easy to contact when on shift. In addition, the product can be configured to adapt to the working practices at the Trust, for example, setting it up so that there is always a specialist occupying particular roles or creating escalation paths when response time thresholds are missed.

Using Alertive ensures that a full record of communications of the episode of care is maintained, providing an audit trail that can be examined subsequently and saved to the patient record.

It also allows colleagues to see that a particular role is occupied and able to respond, rather than just trying bleeps, which may or may not answer. This presence is the new normal for our clients, and processes are improving because of it.

In addition, at Imperial, their Midwifery, Trauma and Hospital at Night teams are using Alertive automated alerts to deliver a range of benefits, including documenting attendance at ward rounds, reminders to record acuity, co-ordinating safety huddles and hospital at night handovers. It’s both supporting and enhancing ways of working.

The Benefits Measured

  1. An independent study at a major London NHS Trust found that messages were delivered to their recipients faster, with 99% of urgent alerts delivered within one minute. In a parallel test, bleeps, on average, were only sent 1.27 minutes after the initial request had been received.
  2. At Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the average response times were reduced to 2 minutes. In a parallel test, the average bleep response times were 9.35 minutes. Additionally, in a study at a London NHS Trust, the number of urgent alerts that did not result in the recipient contacting the sender was reduced from 14.5% to under 1%.
  3. Alertive effectively enabled organisations to manage multiple emergencies at the same time.
  4. Consistent, 99.999% uptime.
  5. Statistics from The Christie on patient outcomes show a 77% reduction in clinical incidents due to communication delays when comparing Datix reports from the bleep system vs. Alertive. 

Expert Endorsement

Most people are interested in speaking to Telecoms and IT teams that have implemented Alertive as their first point of reference so they can benefit from their first-hand experience. Two of our leading experts on the topic are John Wintour-Pittom, who recently said, “When we started our journey, there was a measure of it can’t be done…we are challenging that myth; it can be done..” and Phil Holland, CIO, The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust “It’s just been fabulous in terms of how it’s changed the organisation’s culture and how we can interact with other people.”

Delivery Timescales

Alertive was recently rolled out to 2,500 staff at West Suffolk within three months of the start of the project. While deploying quickly shouldn’t be at the expense of proper planning and, in particular, including clinicians in the process, demonstrating value quickly does create significant momentum within the project and the broader team involved in implementation.

What Next

The benefits described above represent just the beginning of the reasons to upgrade your crash bleep system. For a deeper understanding of Alertive’s solution, visit our website at www.alertive.co.uk or contact us directly at appenquiries@alertive.co.uk

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