Nurses Use iTouch and iPhones to Communicate and Stay Connected

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Sarasota (FL) Memorial Healthcare System plans to bring peace and quiet, along with improved healthcare, to its hospital by supplying Apple's iTouch to all its nurses.

Sarasota Memorial was approached by Voalte to be part of a piloting program. Voalte is a startup developing point-of-care communications company that uses mobile technology, specifically applications from Apple, to send pages and alerts. During the 60-day pilot program that started in June, Sarasota Memorial handed out 25 iPod Touches to nurses on one specific floor with the goal of reducing the amount of noise and inefficiency involved in paging nurses.

At any given time in Sarasota Memorial, one can hear an overhead page every three minutes, and when a patient is in pain and trying to recover, that can be an issue. However, during the pilot program, the one floor that had nurses using the iPod Touches, reduced the number of pages in eight hours from 172 to 38, which pleased patients who appreciated the new quiet. Overall, the iPod Touches were receiving 4,000 messages a day.

With the pilot program a success, senior management at the hospital is looking into distributing 100 additional devices to another nursing floor as well as the critical care environment. Further down the line, the hospital hopes to incorporate anesthesiologists for communication between the 26 emergency rooms located across Sarasota Memorial.

For this next step, the hospital will deal with Apple's iPhone, and not the iTouch, because the iPhone will support Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) even though the hospital anticipated the iTouches would be able to handle the application.

The Apple devices permit a greater level of physical security and when the hospital eventually switches to electronic medical records, the iPhone will be compatible with the software. Also, it allows for more than two-way communication, which the pager was limited to, and the ability to set different ring-tones depending on the severity of the message and who sent the message.

In a survey conducted by the IT department, Sarasota nurses were asked to rate their experience before and after the introduction of the iPhones. Prior to the administration of the devices, nurses rated their ability to find peers a 2.2 out of 4, and rated their effectiveness a 2.5 out of a possible 4.

However, after using the iPhones and software, nurses rated their ability to find peers and their effectiveness at a 3.4 out of a possible four.

Sarasota Memorial plans to get the new iPhones in late November, and hopes to deploy them to its nurses by December.

Sarasota Memorial is not the only hospital that is making the switch from overhead pages to iPhones and iTouches.

University of North Carolina Hospitals has switched from pagers to iPhones to help with communication between interpreters at the hospital. Using the iPhones allow interpreters to have access to the Internet, and if a question arises, the entire group can respond via text message, and not be inundated with phone calls.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is also using iPhones for communication between its staff members and MGH even has its own application called "The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Internal Medicine." This application provides key clinical information about common problems in all areas of internal medicine.