Valley Medical Center’s new communications platform has increased patient satisfaction scores.

Photo by UW Medicine Valley Medical Center

Valley Medical Center, an acute care, nonprofit community hospital in the suburbs of Seattle, always has had a strong commitment to using innovative health care technologies. The hospital has earned numerous accolades attesting to that fact, such as being named one of health care’s Most Wired and reaching Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society Analytics Stage 7. However, the medical center struggled to find a simple, yet effective, communications network.

Valley Medical Center — which is an entity of University of Washington Medicine and manages a network of primary care, urgent care and specialty care clinics — suffered from communication overload. A tangled web of landline phones, legacy mobile phones, pagers, handheld radios and overhead paging ultimately resulted in disjointed communication that led to workflow delays and such staff annoyances as nurses having to wait for physicians to call back and hallways noisy with frequent overhead announcements. The environment was affecting staff and patient satisfaction. It also was a roadblock in the hospital’s efforts to implement quality measures and process improvements to ensure Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reimbursements and avoid penalties.

Project profile

FACILITY // Valley Medical Center

CHALLENGE // Integrated communications platform

SOLUTION // Voalte software platform

The medical center sought a comprehensive, secure platform that would consolidate communications and notifications on an easy-to-use smartphone, while also allowing access to its Epic electronic health record (EHR) system installed in 2012. Valley Medical Center laid out five strategic goals: to increase patient satisfaction, decrease patient-safety indicators, maintain clinicians’ overall satisfaction, improve operating efficiency and be fiscally responsible.

The organization chose Voalte Platform, which allowed the medical center to integrate its EHR, nurse call and patient monitoring systems with mobile technologies. The Voalte Platform upgrade implemented shared Apple iPhones for nurses, technicians, therapists and providers who worked inside the hospital. Phase 1 rolled out the smartphones in its renal respiratory unit, the hospital’s biggest and most active unit. James Jones, BSN, MSN, NEA-BC, vice president of patient care services and nursing operations, led a multidisciplinary team to set project goals, work with the clinical informatics and information technology teams to integrate the new technology with existing systems, collaborate with clinical staff and educate them on how to use the smartphones.

Nurses and other clinical staff transitioned easily to the iPhones. The simple user interface and Voalte Directory make it easy to connect with the appropriate person at the right time, and secure text messages have replaced phone calls as the main method of communication.

Before implementing Voalte Platform, Valley Medical Center performed an assessment to analyze key indicators on six medical-surgical units, including pressure ulcers and skin integrity events, fall-and-slip events, and medication events.

“After implementing Voalte Platform and optimizing some of our workflow processes, we saw health care-associated pressure ulcers, other skin integrity events and medication errors drop significantly,” Jones says. “In the first three months, we saved roughly $54,000 in cost avoidance on the renal respiratory unit, and saw patient satisfaction scores rise to the 99th percentile. We are continuing to work on reducing fall-and-slip events using bed-exit alarms routed from Rauland Responder 5 via Connexall middleware to the appropriate nurse’s smartphone, and we are trending in the right direction.”

Valley Medical Center is now rolling out Voalte Platform to all of its clinical departments. The medical center will continue to roll out the Voalte Me app for physicians and residents, allowing them to use personal smartphones to securely communicate and collaborate with the rest of the care team. The hospital also will work with Voalte and Connexall to analyze workflow efficiencies, adjust alarm settings, and manage notifications from nurse call, physiological monitors and the EHR.

Wayne Manuel, Valley Medical Center’s senior vice president of strategic services, says, “The communication technology has been transformational so far, but we have even higher aspirations in applying this technology across our ambulatory network.”