Unanswered call bells is a persistent problem faced by residential care facilities in Australia.
According to the Aged Care Royal Commission’s final report, 47% of residents have concerns about staff, with unanswered calls for assistance noted amongst their complaints.
Many nurse call systems have not been updated in over a decade, as facilities typically rely on an inflexible system that sends alerts from a resident’s room to a PC or a central nursing station. Calls can go unanswered if staff are occupied, causing frustration and distress for residents. Additionally, staff must frequently respond to calls without knowing the nature of the problem, hampering their ability to prioritise urgent alerts when multiple calls are received.
These challenges not only create safety concerns, but impact the resident’s experience – a significant downside as we move towards consumer-directed, person-centred models of care.
One way forward is applying the capabilities of advanced communication technology to residential settings. Digital innovation is already transforming the care industry in many ways: enabling greater resident independence, capturing critical data, improving safety and optimising staff workflows.
Extending these benefits to nurse call bells was a natural progression for healthcare solutions provider Ascom Australia, given the crucial role these systems play in care provision.
To better connect staff to their residents, Ascom developed the Resident Response and Nurse Call system: a communication and coordination platform that brings together advanced nurse call devices, messaging and reporting software, and purpose-built smartphones.
Providers can provide residents with a fixed call bell in their room, or a pendant that allows them to call for help while moving freely around the site. Rather than going to a fixed PC or station, alerts are sent directly to assigned caregiver mobile phones so staff don’t miss a bell call for assistance. If someone is unable to respond, the call is automatically routed to a colleague.
Residents can also communicate what they need when they make the call, so staff know the nature of each alert and can prioritise their response while on the go.
So far, Ascom’s system has shown to significantly improve call bell response times at residential facilities. At AnglicareSA Aged Care in Adelaide, for instance, satisfaction with call bell response increased by 30% after the new system was implemented, which led to a correlating 20% improvement in care provision satisfaction.
The system’s digital capabilities features other benefits for providers. Call bell data, including staff interventions, can be logged for digital reporting and made available to families and regulatory authorities.
The solution is also easily scalable: the advanced version of the Resident Response and Nurse Call System integrates with Electronic Medical Records and third-party systems to generate detailed resident insights, making it suitable for larger, multi-site aged care homes.
As the Aged Care Royal Commission rightly places resident safety and dignity in the spotlight, digital innovation has a strong part to play in supporting staff and improving call bell responses. This can help move us closer to providing better care that truly meets the individual’s needs.