Mar 26, 2021

Unanswered call bells cause distress – could this solution be the answer?

Patient call bell

It’s well-known that a common issue in the care sector that creates stress and anxiety for aged care residents is staff failing to respond to call bells in a timely manner.

Calls for assistance typically require unplanned attention from busy frontline workers. According to a recent survey of 922 aged care nurses and carers in Australia, some of the tasks that are most frequently missed are toileting within five minutes of a request, ambulating with residents and to a lesser extent, skin and wound care.

Undue anxiety for residents

While in most cases the alert is not deliberately missed – staff may be providing clinical care or in the middle of helping a resident who can’t be left unattended – the situation is often distressing for residents. It can cause pain and discomfort, frustration, undue anxiety and loss of confidence in staff reliability.

In worst case scenarios, persistent missed calls can significantly impact a resident’s health – missed toileting, for example, can cause incontinence as a result of waiting for extended periods to get to the toilet in time.

On the other side of the coin, responding quickly to call bells is often beneficial for residents, resulting in positive health outcomes and increased satisfaction. 


Faster response results in lower fall rates

Researchers analysing call response times in four US hospitals found faster call response times were associated with lower injurious fall rates, and contributed to higher patient satisfaction in acute adult inpatient care settings. 

Those who work in aged care will likely see a similar trend: experience tells us that residents are happier with their care when their calls are quickly attended to, and staff are responsive to their unscheduled needs. 

New innovation drastically improves response times

To deliver these benefits to the aged care sector, Ascom Australia is working with providers to implement call systems that use digital technology to significantly improve response times.

The healthcare solutions provider has developed an innovative nurse call system that supports aged care workers by intelligently managing alerts from residents.

Rather than sending calls to a fixed station where they can be easily missed, Ascom’s system gives staff members real-time alerts on a smartphone while they are on the go. If they are unavailable to attend a call, the system immediately redirects the alert to a colleague, optimising work flows and reducing unnecessary call response delays.

The system also helps improve the quality of responses. One of the difficulties that nurses and carers experience is not knowing the nature of the problem they are attending to, leaving them unprepared for the task at hand. 

Staff better informed about patients

Ascom’s nurse call platform integrates with third-party systems to provide key information with each alert. Staff members receiving the call know who is ringing and where they are currently located in the facility. In contrast to traditional call bell systems, a comprehensive view of the patient’s status is also displayed with each alert, so staff are better informed about the situation they are attending to. They can prioritise calls if they receive several alerts at once, or coordinate responses with colleagues.

As staffing issues and higher levels of resident acuity adds pressure to call responsiveness, providers will need innovative solutions to improve answer times and prevent situations that cause distress. 

Updating nurse call systems to a platform that intuitively supports residents and enables staff to do their jobs goes a long way, promoting the high quality care people deserve. 

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  1. Once again the issue is being over simplified. The government funds aged-care, as everyone should now be aware they haven’t provided adequate funding to deliver proper care.

    If the very best funding was made available the sector will never be able to immediately address every call immediately. That’s a one on one 24/7 scenario. The best facilities run at one carer for six residents, what happens if two or three ring at the same time?
    A little patience and common sense from both residents and their families would be greatly appreciated from all staff.
    What about considering the “chronic caller”? Those few residents that constantly ring the bell.. for no reason at all… what of them, they form a considerable part of the statistics in this argument.
    It’s not so much about staffing, it’s about appreciating that the person ringing the bell is not the only person on the planet.

  2. Another factor can sometimes be a resident has misplaced the call button or doesn’t have the strength to push the button hard enough to register a call. My Mother who recently passed was blind so often couldn’t find the call button, and if she did, didn’t press it hard enough to register the need for care.
    It is totally unrealistic to expect residents to wait till after meals before doing pad changes, expecting residents to have their meals whilst wearing wet or soiled incontinence aids.
    Our residents desperately need an improved system that caters to their needs, and we need additional staff during the busiest times of the day, e,g, mornings.

  3. Sounds great in theory but when you only have one staff member on the floor over night and have to wait for a team member from another section to assist you and they are busy waiting times won’t matter you cannot be in 2places at once and you cannot assist that resident on your own if they are by 2 assist more staff on the floor is the only answer for timely care and answering residents needs

  4. I totally agree with this problem. My aged parents have had trouble with getting timely responses from their carers. I have addressed this issue where they reside. I’m keeping onto it going forward. It is so difficult for my parents when no one answers them in a timely manner.

  5. the major problem is staffing, no matter the system in place without people to do the action required there is still going to be wait time, but this sounds like something to give a try, then there will be a cost for the new systems, what is more cost productive people or smart systems. I wonder.

  6. Better still would be a system that doesnt treat all calls from residents as emergencies.
    Current technology is unable to prioritise a resident who has had a fall, over a resident who wants the curtains closed in their room.

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