As healthcare professionals in local hospitals and nursing homes are now taking advantage of the latest technologies in nurse call paging systems, they are also paving the way for new opportunities for electrical contractors.

Today’s flexible designs allow hard-wired or wireless call points to communicate with the host computer. Many offer the capabilities of wireless phones, touch screen systems, room-to-room communications and even remote pagers.

While caregivers today are required to provide personalized patient-centered care, more and more hospitals are looking to electrical contractors to keep their facilities wired. Hospitals primarily utilize room-to-room communications and PBX telephone interfaces.

Emergency call systems can be programmed to provide additional supervision of door contacts on security systems and even smoke detectors. There are even opportunities to integrate with existing telephone systems, wireless pendants and paging systems. Tone visual nurse-call systems can be expanded to monitor a significant number of additional rooms. It is important for nurses to maintain mobility on a specific patient floor or unit. With the help of a touch-screen monitor, nurses are now able to easily answer calls, while displaying patient information and even staff location.

InterPage has developed a messaging platform for Microsoft Windows, BasePage 2000, for text messaging with on-site paging, wide-area paging and use with cell phones. Through its use, every PC within a facility is transformed into a paging terminal for staff to communicate with each other. Management can also check the report generations to confirm when messages were dispatched and the length of time it took to respond to a certain call.

“We are seeing several new trends in nurse call systems, especially in emergency wards,” said Frank Owens, president of InterPage. “Because there is a shortage of nurses nationwide, some hospitals are not able to see patients for hours. Our system interfaces with existing nursing systems so when a patient pulls a cord, a caregiver’s pager will go off. There is a reset button on the wall to stop the page. Hospitals are interested in these systems because it gives the time when the page was sent out and the time when the caregiver responded to the call.”

E-mail also can also be configured to be sent directly to pagers or cell phones. Electrical contractors can integrate these systems with alarm systems to provide immediate notification of security breaches. “Electrical contractors can interface these systems with telephones and personal computers,” Owens added. “They can form groups for teams who need to respond to certain pages. They can be set up to be notified by cell phone, e-mail or pager, whatever method they prefer. They can even set up automatic pagers for building systems, HVAC maintenance, etc. If the HVAC system of a building goes down, the system can be programmed to page the superintendent or maintenance man.”

Some direct benefits of these new advances include integration with the hospital’s PBC so each telephone extension can be utilized to transmit alphanumeric messages and internal codes. Alarms are reported directly to specifically assigned nurses allowing staff members to move from one to location to another while still remaining wired.While hospitals clearly need these paging devices for patient administration, more and more commercial buildings are using these systems for security, fire and building management control.

The call systems can be configured into a hospital’s local area network, which enables messages to be sent directly to pagers and cell phones. Network administrators can update records, review message histories, send reminder messages and administer a system from virtually any location.

“There is quite an opportunity for electrical contractors to interface wireless systems with existing nurse paging systems,” said Pauline Haack, sales support manager for Cornell Systems. “They can go to older nursing homes and integrate with a hard-wired system. Low-voltage engineers typically know about these opportunities, so if a nurse is away from a station and receives a page, they will now be able to tell where the page is coming from. You can even program a chip to interface with a system and even define the type of call. These systems can interface with a door monitor and fire alarm system. With nursing homes and hospitals, these new systems are becoming increasingly popular because it gives the healthcare professional the freedom to not have continuous people at the nurse’s station. The installation of these systems is becoming a growing trend because of the high cost of nurses, nursing homes and overall healthcare.”

Personal computers can be transformed into specific on-site paging terminals, reducing the amount of internal telephone calls as well as the personnel to manage switchboard operations. Contact group management is a priority for all administrators. For hospitals, more than one person is generally notified of a specific call. By setting up a group, a single page can be transmitted that will notify several members of that group. In addition, reminder paging notification can be programmed to advise of staff meetings, patient medication, etc.

While flexibility of these systems is appealing to healthcare officials, security remains a viable concern. Electrical contractors should be sure each user is set up with a specific user name and password and define the amount of access each user should have. For example, some users might only be able to send a text message but not be able to administer any functions. Messages should be prioritized for emergency situations with alarms established for high priority calls.

Nurse call systems have already been linked to incorporate paging functionality but today’s systems like InterPage are providing additional use to these systems, including call escalation, logging of nurse call alarms, statistical analysis and distribution of calls. The nurse call integration assigns call points to roster schedules and determine which staff should be contacted, depending on the time of the call.

Pagers can also be uniquely designed for specific employees from managers to regular staff personnel. These applications are made possible via a single platform computer based system. Calls are delivered to a host computer and distributed. Hands-free models are also available, requiring no additional cabling into a patient’s room.

“Our prime product is the Provider 680 nurse call system, which integrates room-to-room communications and allows nurses in a station to answer calls by touching a screen,” said Ken Sorensen, advertising manager for Jeron Electronic Systems Inc. “When a call is placed, a light will flash and there are different colors that will flash depending on the urgency of the call.

SPEED is a freelance writer based in Weymouth, Mass. She can be reached at 617.529.2676 or kspeed@aol.com.