Call the Doctor: 3 Alerts Nurse Call Systems Can’t Provide

Over the years, nurse call systems have proven both extremely useful and somewhat limited.

For senior housing executives, traditional call systems have provided vital alerts – especially the ability to directly notify care staff when a resident may have fallen. But while fall alerts are useful, they do not provide anything close to a complete picture of a senior housing resident’s health.

Unlike the nurse call systems that are common in many senior living communities, modern health monitoring technologies make it possible for senior housing providers to receive notification of a myriad of health conditions – including the kind of data that allows caregivers to act before an event, rather than after the fact. For resident executives, this means running a more efficient operation while simultaneously ensuring better resident well-being.

Here are three valuable alerts traditional nurse call systems cannot provide, but that could help senior housing executives and caregivers provide residents greater quality of care and quality of life:

Fall risk alerts.

A pull cord or pendant can alert caregivers after a fall, but theses systems cannot alert staff to the possibility of an impending fall incident. That’s a real shortcoming: It’s always more effective to manage a fall before it happens than to treat and remediate after-the-fact. With today’s always-on passive monitoring, resident executives can put in place a system that monitors gait, stride length, stride speed, and other elements indicative of a person’s fall risk. When a resident’s collective fall risk score reaches an elevated or high risk status, staff receives an alert of a possible impending fall so preventative measures can be taken – something a traditional call system cannot provide.

Vital sign irregularities.

Vital sign monitoring and alerts to caregivers have never been a part of the traditional call system, which has mainly been dedicated to alerting caregivers to falls or self-reported discomfort by residents. However, many senior living providers would benefit from alerts about abnormalities – be they transient or ongoing – in residents’ functional vital signs.

Outside of facilities designed to care for residents with high acuity, most older adults living in senior housing communities aren’t connected to heart or respiration rate monitors on a daily or otherwise regular basis. As a result, directors and staffers are unable to watch for signs of potential decline in these, or other key health indicators.

Today, a combination of various forms of passive monitoring and artificial intelligence has changed that game substantially. By constantly recording and analyzing data, a discrete monitoring system, combined with artificial intelligence, can monitor a range of functional vital signs and alert staff when signs emerge that indicate a potential negative health event may be arising such as stroke, heart disease, respiratory illness, or urinary tract infections (UTIs).

Preventing pressure ulcers.

Pressure ulcers are among the most common preventable ailments in senior housing communities caring for those who have become less mobile, and yet, here again a traditional call system is of limited helpfulness. By the time a resident puts in a call for a bedsore, the situation has usually progressed to a fairly severe degree. Advanced bed sensors that go underneath a mattress can now help prevent these painful and potentially dangerous ulcers by noting a lack of movement that can lead to hot spots and alerting caregivers to take action before a problem develops.

Nurse call systems have been a useful tool for senior living communities over the years, but their value has been limited by the available technologies. There’s a lot they cannot tell us. Today’s health monitoring tools, however, far surpass those of a previous technological generation and bring to the table a broad range of capabilities unavailable in traditional call systems. This gives resident executives a broad suite of new capabilities to help ensure operational efficiency and resident well-being. Is your call system current? Are there better options worth exploring?

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