When Nurse Call Systems AREN’T the Best Choice For Senior Housing

Just because something works doesn’t automatically make it the best choice. A horse and buggy will get you there, but a car is quicker and a lot more efficient.

Conventional nurse call systems have become the horse and buggy of medical alert technology in senior housing. For decades the buttons and pull cords did the job, alerting staff to incidents among the residents.

Today these solutions are no longer the best choice in most senior housing environments.* They may still have their place in certain settings, but for most resident directors the arguments against outdated technology should be clear.

Nurse call systems aren’t the best solution for senior housing if… 

…You want a timely response.

When a resident taps a button or tugs a pull cord, a chain of events is set in motion. An alert goes to the caregiver on duty, who may respond if they’re free or may dispatch another caregiver. That message might not be received, and even then, that individual may be in the middle of another task. All this takes time, while the resident remains in distress.

…You want to enhance your reputation for transparency and service.

Every senior housing operation these days must focus on the delivery of quality care, including keeping family in the loop at all times. In a competitive environment, this level of customer service is a difference maker. When outdated technology causes caregivers to lapse in their tasks and/or precludes you from keeping family up-to-date in a transparent fashion that’s a customer service failure – the kind that gets noticed well beyond the walls of the community. Internet chatter runs at lightning speed and every miss is noted and shared by residents’ loved ones and industry competitors alike.

…You are trying to run an efficient operation with a lean staff headcount.

Because traditional call systems do nothing to prevent illness or falls nor reduce the monitoring necessary by staff to avoid negative health events, they do nothing to reduce the need for personnel on duty. It may just be an extra shift here or there, a bit of overlap between care givers, or simply improving efficiency and productivity of staff by making their jobs easier, but modern health monitoring systems will lead to a more efficient operation and may even reduce staff expenses for the senior living organization as a whole.

…You want happy staffers.

Studies have shown a close correlation between good communications and happy staffers. This is true not just among those on duty, who must be able to communicate freely and productively with one another, but also between staff and patients. Open and effective lines of communication – especially in times of personal crisis – help give staff the sense of personal accomplishment they need to do their jobs happily and well.

…Your residents may not be able to signal for help.

A button or pull cord assumes a certain degree of manual dexterity either before or during a crisis event. Are your residents able to perform this task? If not, such a system may not be a good fit for everyone, and systems that provide passive alerts through environmentally-embedded sensors or monitoring might be a better option.

Nurse call systems have been an effective tool for a long time, but they do have their shortcomings. Is such a system really the best option for your community? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

*Check your local regulations if you’re thinking of replacing your nurse call system as specific requirements vary state to state.

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