Interview with Jim Welch, EVP, Sotera Wireless

Interview with Jim Welch, EVP, Sotera Wireless

This interview is with a long established thought leader in patient monitoring and alarm notification, Jim Welch. Jim has demonstrated a knack for bringing a fresh approach to long-term persistent problems in monitoring, nursing vigilance and patient care. At Sotera Wireless, Jim’s had a chance to re-imagine patient monitoring in low acuity settings with predictably innovative results.

At the AAMI 2014 conference, I had the opportunity to attend the breakfast symposium where Jim presented, Transforming Care in Non-ICU Settings through Disruptive Continuous Monitoring Technology. The following discussion centers on patient monitoring data analytics, pioneered by Sotera Wireless.

What is the value of data analytics applied to medical device alarms?

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Role of Montoring Techs in Alarm Notification

Role of Montoring Techs in Alarm Notification

Challenges with alarm notification and fatigue have plagued the health care industry for decades. Long before alarm notification systems like Emergin (now Philips IntelliSpace Event Management) and GlobeStar Systems (ConnexAll) appeared, some hospitals addressed alarm issues with the original alarm notification system, monitoring techs. Monitoring techs remain an accepted and effective tool in the constant battle to reduce alarm fatigue and avoid failure-to-rescue events.

With the growing adoption of electronic alarm notification systems, is there still a role for monitoring techs? Are electronic alarm notification systems superior to flesh and bone monitoring techs? This blog post will explore monitoring techs as a solution and consider whether they might be a compliment to an alarm notification system, or whether an alarm notification system should take the place of monitor techs.

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Order Workflows

Order Workflows

Except for emergent situations, no medical device is used without an order. And if not an order written to accomplish a certain clinical task for a specific patient, then “standing” orders captured in written policies and procedures to handle frequent, routine situations. Consequently, orders are one of the first workflow steps in medical device connectivity. Orders are pervasive, used in all health care delivery environments from acute care hospitals to patient’s homes.

Principal ways connectivity can add value to medical device are enhancing patient safety, improving clinical efficacy and productivity. That the inappropriate use or misuse of medical devices can result in patient injury or death is not news. Proper use or misuse can start with the order. Well designed and implemented order workflow automation in a connectivity solution can impact patient safety, the efficacy and utilization of the medical device, and staff/unit productivity. Besides their own unique considerations, order workflows share many of the risks and potential benefits of other types of connectivity workflows.

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Scheduling Workflow

Scheduling Workflow

Scheduling is not a workflow one normally associates with medical device connectivity. In some applications, scheduling is handled by software separate from the connectivity solution. Sometimes, scheduling is not done at all. In other applications, as we shall see, scheduling is so much a part of the broader workflow, that it’s hard to recognize as a scheduling task. Two illustrative aspects of scheduling will be discussed, scheduling for diagnostic modalities and scheduling for routine patient care tasks. Because it’s less understood (and frankly more interesting) we will look at scheduling for routine patient care tasks first.

Patient Care Task Scheduling

Patient care tasks encompass routine activities carried out by caregivers and/or aids. Examples of these routine tasks include vital signs collection, medication administration, bed turns (to avoid hospital acquired pressure ulcers, or HAPU), and respiratory circuit flushing (to avoid ventilator acquired pneumonia, VAP). These tasks must be completed at a predetermined frequency on a reliable basis or adverse events – including patient death – can result.

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Patient Context Workflow

Patient Context Workflow

Connectivity enabled medical devices send patient data right out of the medical device to a network, be it a body area network, cellular broadband network, home or enterprise network. The network then conveys this medical device data to databases and applications that store, display and manipulate the data. When a medical device is directly attached to a patient, there is no question as to which patient the device data belongs. As soon as the data leaves the actual medical device via the serial port or a network connection, the association of that data with a particular patient is no longer obvious.

Much of the data used in establishing and maintaining patient association or patient context comes from, or is stored in, the patient management database. Patient management workflow is an important enabling component in the overall connectivity solution and key to patient context management.

It is critical to reliably know that the data from a medical device belongs to a particular patient. If the data is not associated with any patient it’s worthless; should the data be associated with the wrong patient it could be deadly. When patient data from patient A is misidentified as belonging to patient B, patient A can miss out on a life saving clinical intervention that is mistakenly applied to patient B. In this example, patient A may die due to a lack of care, and patient B may be injured or die as a consequence of receiving some clinical intervention that is not needed and could be contraindicated. Consequently, safe and reliable patient association or patient context management is a foundational capability for virtually any medical device connectivity or interoperability solution.

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Alarm Fatigue Plagues Hospitals. Again. Still.

Alarm Fatigue Plagues Hospitals. Again. Still.

On April 8, 2013, the Joint Commission published a Sentinel Event Alert on medical device alarm safety in hospitals. Once again, alarm hazards tops the ECRI Institute’s 2013 Top 10 Health Technology Hazards. Alarm fatigue is unfortunately a topic that is evergreen because it has plagued hospitals for many years and shows little sign of abating. A search of the literature will show the most common consequence of alarm fatigue is a failure to rescue adverse event (in which the vast majority 80% of patients die). A secondary consequence is on patient satisfaction; constant alarms audible throughout the unit make it difficult for patients to sleep.

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