Mar 26, 2021

The most important button in aged care just received a huge makeover

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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.

Digital innovation transforming care industry

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.

Staff won’t miss a bell call for assistance

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.

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Call bell response times significantly improved

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.

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  1. The reason call bells are left unanswered is because of lack of enough staff not the call bell systems! The solution is simple – ensure adequate staffing in aged care facilities.

    1. Absolutely! And if there are only 2 staff on the floor and they need to attend to a resident for toileting or a pad change, they are unable to leave that resident to answer the next buzzer! Adequate staffing is the only answer. Where I work, the call bells come up on a board in the corridors (covering the whole building), there is a light above the residents room and the buzzer has two different sounds – one for “normal” calls and one for emergency calls. However, no matter what system is being used, staff levels are vital.

  2. This new system will only benefit residents if :
    they are capable of using it..ie, residents with dementia. eg. some residents are not aware of what a call bell is.
    there is an increase in staff to answer multiple calls.
    and there is enough equipment, ie hoists. eg. 1 hoist for many rooms doesn’t work.

  3. As a dedicated care worker, I welcome improved communication but from my point of view, realistic response times will only be possible when there are enough carers on the floor to meet the needs of residents in a timely way.

  4. Unfortunately when you have a ratio off 1 carer per 20 residents this is going too happen you can apply all the fancy bells and whistles but if the number off staff is not increased you will be back to square 1.

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