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Hand-free device enhances BAMC staff communication, safety

By Lori Newman | Brooke Army Medical Center Public Affairs | Nov. 3, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

The wireless hands-free integrated communications system, or WHICS, worn by many staff members throughout Brooke Army Medical Center may not be able to teleport them to another location, but it allows a faster, more efficient way for staff members to communicate.

The BAMC Information Management Division implemented the WHICS last October, but the system was fully employed Oct. 5 to allow alarms from patient monitors to automatically contact the appropriate personnel through the device.

“This communication between the servers allows staff to get immediate notification of the life threatening rhythms that their patients may be experiencing,” said Army Col. Mike Ludwig, deputy commander for inpatient services.

 

“This direct communication augments current processes and monitoring assets in place, which includes the telemetry tech who monitors the patient’s rhythm and communicates with staff,” Ludwig said.

 

The $4.3 million project deployed 1,650 badge devices throughout multiple departments within the hospital. These badges were integrated with the nurse call, telemetry and telephone systems. Nurse call and telemetry integration allows patient alarms to be routed directly to nursing staff via the badge. 

“The badge allows for direct communication to a member of the care team,” he said. “The tool reduces the time it takes to contact a patient’s nurse and increases the ease and speed of communication between healthcare providers to include nurse to physician communication and other interdisciplinary communication with dietary, radiology, housekeeping, etc.”

The wireless device also allows staff members to place internal and external telephone calls using the badge, which is worn around the person’s neck.  With the touch of a button, the caller can speak another staff member’s first and last name or their job title, such as 3E charge nurse.

“The badge allows for instantaneous communication that is secure and at the staff’s fingertips,” Ludwig said.

If a patient presses the call bell in their room, an alarm is sent through the WHICS badge to the nurse assigned to that patient’s room. The room nurse has the option of accepting the call or escalating it to the charge nurse who has the option of accepting the call or escalating it to clinical nurse in charge of the unit. The WHICS is a secondary notification system. The nurse must also reset the alarm on the nurse call or telemetry system console.

“The staff loves the device because it’s easier to contact physicians and other staff members,” said Air Force Col. Deborah Jones, medical nursing services chief.  “It’s hands-free, saves time and allows more work productivity throughout the day.”

The Provost Marshall Office also uses the WHICS badge for security personnel.

“When I need to talk to one of the officers, I can contact them directly, even in the outlying clinics,” said Chuck Bielling, security guard supervisor. “It helps cut down on radio transmissions when the traffic is only for one specific officer.”

Another added benefit is that a BAMC staff member can use the WHICS badge to contact security directly. All they have to do is push the button and say “Security.”

“By calling security through the badge, staff members can reach the BAMC security dispatcher directly,” Bielling said. “This saves time and enhances the safety of our staff and patients.”

Currently, 4,324 personnel are using the WHICS system throughout BAMC including all the inpatient wards, intensive care units, emergency department staff, outpatient clinic staff, housekeeping, information management and many others.

“This tool enhances communication not only in the inpatient clinical settings but the outpatient settings such as the ED and the clinics,” Ludwig said. “This tool also enhances and streamlines communication with senior leaders at BAMC, allowing communication to a wide range of staff located in the various locations of BAMC's large footprint.”