Cloud computing improves nurse call system

Bob Sodemann, co-founder of DataComm Plus, an information technology and telecommunications systems firm and data center based in Franklin, is combining existing technologies in innovative ways to help nurses reach patients requiring immediate attention quicker and more fluidly.

Sodemann developed the Ultimate Caregiver, which merges pull cord technology with the power of cloud computing and mobile devices to allow for wireless paging and generated staff response reports. The integration of these technologies is especially useful for nursing facilities and elderly care homes, where nursing staffs are constantly on the go, attending to a number of patients.

“We’re applying these technologies in new and creative ways,” Sodemann said.

The development behind the collaboration of these technologies has been an evolving process over the past five years with cloud computing introduced to the collaboration earlier this year.

The Ultimate Caregiver connects a pull cord system, either wired or wireless, in a nursing facility with a cloud hosted at a data center. When a patient pulls a pull cord, it triggers a light to turn on. A light sensor sees the automatic light and sends the pull cord information to the data center over the Internet. The data center then transmits the information to pagers and mobile devices to alert nursing staffs about where the pull cord call is coming from. Alerts can be sent through texts, e-mails, pages and phone calls.

The data center also tracks pull cord calls and generates reports detailing the amount of time staff takes to respond to a particular call.

According to Sodemann, the Ultimate Caregiver’s most significant strengths are that all computing involved takes place in the cloud which is more reliable than other servers, and the cloud can be connected to existing nurse call systems so that facilities do not have to invest in costly new technology.

DataComm Plus has connected these capabilities using the cloud with four facilities, including two in the greater Milwaukee area, one in Nebraska and one in Iowa.

One of the facilities, the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi convent in St. Francis, has been relying on the Ultimate Caregiver since July so that its nursing staff can better identify nuns in need of urgent help.

The convent is home to 40 sisters who receive 24-hour care. Another building on the convent’s campus, Clare Hall, houses about 70 sisters who have two shifts of care available to them daily.

Convent administrator John Schmitt said the organization needed to update its technology to better accommodate elderly nuns with exceedingly demanding health needs.

“The sisters are aging in place, and we wanted to improve the quality of care and reduce the response time,” Schmitt said.

“We wanted to make sure that as their need for care increases, we could adapt to it to take care of them,” he said.

Originally, Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi had a wired nurse call system connected to a panel of lights. When a nun pulled a pull cord in her room, a light would come on in the hallway right outside her room door. The panel of lights would also light up and sound a tone to alert staff which room the pull cord had been pulled in.

The system was limited in that it required a staff member to be at the panel as much as possible. Otherwise, caregivers would have to explore the hallways when hearing the alert tone to find which light outside which room was signaling the patient in need.

The Ultimate Caregiver technology enables staff alerts via pagers using the same pull cord system. When a sister pulls her cord, the panel lights up and all nursing staff members are alerted with their pagers. The pagers display the exact room number the cord has been pulled in. If the cord has been pulled in a restroom, the pager will display the two room numbers the restroom serves. Vibrating tones on the pagers also signal when a pull cord has been pulled in a room or restroom.

A second alert is sent out via pager once a caregiver has responded so other staff members know the sister in need is being cared for.

This swifter means of communication is all possible thanks to cloud computing. The pull cords, once pulled, alert the data center, which alerts the pagers. The data centers also generate daily reports, which are e-mailed directly to Schmitt and the nurses with documentation of 24-hour pull cord activity. The reports list the date of each pull cord call, the time of the call, the amount of time it took for staff to respond, and when the call was cancelled.

“We’ve noticed from the reports that we get that the response times are extremely short, so (nurses) react very well to the calls,” Schmitt said.

In alerting nurses through pages, the Ultimate Caregiver encourages nurses to be more efficient on the floor instead of tied to a station to track pull cord signals.

“It allows caregivers to be roaming around doing their routines and attending to other sisters, and then if an alarm goes off they can get it right where they are,” said Tom Sodemann, co-founder of DataComm Plus and brother to Bob.

The technology has also proven cost-effective for the convent as it enabled them to keep their own pull cord system, which they’ve been using for more than 20 years.

“One of the biggest advantages is that Bob was able to adapt to our old system rather than us having to pull the entire system out, which we had looked at several years ago,” Schmitt said. “And at that point the only option was to bring in something entirely new while removing the old. This way we were able to utilize much of the equipment that was already here and just adapt it to the cloud system.”

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