Case Study: Androscoggin Valley Hospital
New Hampshire Hospital Improves HCAHPs Overall Ranking from 17th to 67th Percentile After Implementing Dalcon Alert System.
Like small hospitals throughout North America, Androscoggin Valley Hospital (AVH) balances growing workloads against ever-tighter budgets and limited resources. The 25-bed facility is located in Berlin, N.H., a city of 10,000 at the edge of the White Mountains. In 2011, after implementing the Dalcon Alert the previous year, AVH dramatically increased its HCAHPS scores in nine categories of patient satisfaction.
The communications system at AVH was a patchwork of nurse call and alarm systems, linked to a Mitel PBX and long overdue for replacement. “We’d been working with outdated systems that couldn’t be repaired,” recalls Clare Vallee, vice president of nursing at AVH. “Parts of it were over 30 years old. We also had huge issues with bed alarms. We could hear the alarm from down the hall, but we wouldn’t know which room it was coming from.”
Alarms for chairs and IV pumps had similar problems. “We knew each alarm’s sound, so we knew what the problem was; it just took a while to find the room,” says Brenda Aubin, AVH’s Medical-Surgical Unit director. “Our culture has always been that if you hear an alarm, you just go. So several nurses would respond—not just the nurse assigned to that room. It probably wasn’t the most efficient process.”
Nurses also needed to reposition some patients at least once every two hours to prevent pressure sores that can lead to infection. But staying on schedule proved a persistent challenge. “Bed turns were self-policed,” says Aubin. “The expectation was for each nurse to keep that responsibility straight. But across multiple shifts and changing routines, it wasn’t easy.”
In 2010, AVH implemented the Dalcon Alert system, which interfaces with hospital’s existing Mitel PBX. When an alarm is triggered or a patient presses a bedside call button, Dalcon Alert generates and distributes a text message to nurses, who are each equipped with a wireless personal handset. These programmable handsets assign unique rings to each alert, an audible cue that saves nurses time and trouble. An overhead monitor located at the nurse’s station also displays alerts and their status.
During 2011, AVH achieved significant progress in staff communication, responsiveness to patient needs, pain management and several other measures of patient satisfaction. A comparison of the hospital’s 2011 HCAHPS assessment with its 2010 scores objectively demonstrates the dramatic improvement.
“With Dalcon Alert, we now know immediately what problem the patient is having, and where the patient is,” says Aubin. “Responding to alarms is easier now.”
Dalcon Alert also keeps track of bed turn schedules by alerting nurses when the bed turn cycle reaches 90 minutes, and again at the two-hour mark. “It’s one less thing nurses have to worry about,” says Vallee.
Not only does Dalcon help simplify the job of caring for patients, it also supplies nurses with their own telephones to consult with physicians, respond to pages, or interact with staff in other departments. That’s because their handsets also function as wireless telephones. “Before, if a nurse called a physician, she either had to wait for him to call back, or we’d have to hunt her down when the call came,” says Aubin. “Now she can get the call directly.” Nurses also use the phones to communicate with other AVH staffers. “Staff in radiology, our sleep center, and dietary department,