Speeding Critical Alerts to Mobile Devices:
Q&A with Michael Rost, Senior Product Manager, Emergin
In this interview, Michael Rost, Senior Product Manager, Emergin talks about how improving the distribution of critical alert messaging and alarms to mobile devices helps improve response times. This means better patient care and cost control for hospitals, reduced downtime for manufacturers and streamlined workflows for enterprises that rely on multiple vendor solutions to send alarms and messages to mobile users.
BlackBerry Connection® (BC): In your own words, briefly describe Emergin’s solution.
Michael Rost (MR): Emergin provides software-oriented middleware solutions that help analyze and direct critical alert messaging and alarms.
Healthcare is a primary area of focus for us, however, the solution also applies to a variety of other verticals – anywhere where an enterprise has a whole spectrum of vendor solutions that don’t talk to one another. Emergin brings all those points together into a standard platform, our Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) solution. We can distribute those critical alarms and messages out to wireless devices, allowing clients to prioritize and distribute messages and alarms as they see fit.
Our solution also enables root cause analysis, to pull up event information from one location. So from a client application, the user can follow an alert, alarm or critical message and trace it back to its point of origin or point of completion.
BC: How do you help your customers make improvements in the area of critical alarms?
MR: Customers want the ability to improve receipt and response to critical alarms, and perform better analysis of those alarms.
Looking at healthcare, there’s a lot of alert fatigue in the clinician environment. So there is a need to analyze those alarms to find out how many are being generated, and where they’re coming from, in order to determine a more efficient way to send them out to different care providers.
BC: What does Emergin do when a client has a workflow process, in healthcare or any other industry, that is not optimal?
MR: We get involved on a consultative level to organize and design workflow. We’ll look at where messages are coming from and going to, we’ll look at response times, and we’ll identify areas where there is duplication of activity. Basically helping clients see the inefficiencies and problems in their workflow and where they can correct them.
Showing hard numbers in this process is important, and we have the ability to show quantitative outcomes like estimated percentage reduction in response times.
BC: A few questions on healthcare application: First, does Emergin also provide integration solutions with nurse call systems?
MR: Yes, from any type of critical care medical device we can take alarms and distribute them out to clinicians.
A lot of times we see clinicians with a wide range of communication devices. Our platform allows us to take in all those feeds from nurse call systems or patient monitoring systems and distribute critical alarms out to Wi-Fi or cellular devices.
BC: How is the call routed from a patient who pushes a bedside nurse-call button?
MR: An alert can be sent out to a wireless device like a BlackBerry® smartphone, showing the room number and patient information. And it can specify the source of the call, so the nurse knows it’s coming from a bedside button or a pull cord in the bathroom, for example.
The nurse can then accept the alert and respond with a voice call back to the patient room to see if the patient is okay. Or, if the nurse is busy with another patient and can’t respond, he or she can escalate the alert to the next level of care. The alert can also be automatically escalated if the call isn’t acknowledged by a nurse after a certain amount of time.
Every healthcare facility has their own workflow process, so our system works within, and in most cases actually improves, this process.
BC: Displaying a variety of alerts and rich clinical information seems more appropriate on a full screen ‘smart’ device with a keyboard versus a basic Wi-Fi phone. Is there anything you can highlight in terms of BlackBerry smartphones as the destination device?
MR: In terms of critical alarms, we’re seeing a growing need for the end device to be capable of receiving different kinds of information in a visual form and one that gives the user more options on how to use or respond to that information.
In healthcare, there are a lot of inquiries for patient monitoring information and EKGs on the device. In the hospital environment, there are still a lot of legacy communication devices like cell phones, pagers, but that’s starting to change because we do see a lot of physicians carrying the BlackBerry smartphone.
We’re also seeing facilities looking at their communication and workflow and wanting to standardize on a particular device that can handle lots of information. That’s where the BlackBerry platform comes into play, because of the wide variety of applications it can handle – and its strong security model. When confidential patient information is being sent to clinicians’ devices, the wireless solution used must be able to work within a HIPAA compliant environment on and off the hospital campus.
Our customers are also starting to ask for things like imaging and patient records on the device and being able to generate conference calls with one touch.
BC: Is ‘Wi-Fi versus cellular’ important here?
MR: In manufacturing, both Wi-Fi and wide area has a presence. In healthcare, Wi-Fi seems to be more dominant due to coverage, cost and the critical nature of the alarm. The meshing of these two will become important, however, because while nurses for the most part are campus based, physicians often are not.
BC: What are the biggest benefits that your customers enjoy?
MR: Being able to tailor the communication and alerting system into a workable workflow, being able to receive various messages on one device, and having a closed-loop escalation process.
Also, of course, improving the patient care aspect in healthcare is essential. Our solution improves response times and also reduces the need for overhead paging in hospitals and clinics, which is noisy and disruptive. When it comes to patient transfer, providing complete transfer information on the device makes that process smoother and faster.
BC: Can you describe a real world scenario (i.e. a case study) that stands out as a very successful Emergin deployment?
MR: One of our biggest success stories is at William Beaumont Hospitals in Michigan. We integrated EBS with their nurse call system, patient monitoring system and wireless communication system, and drove standardization across their healthcare enterprise.
At the time, the facility had no IT governance, so each vendor had introduced their own application strategy by department. We took an enterprise approach when introducing the ESB product. This allowed us to resolve the ‘tool belt’ scenario of having many different alarms going to multiple devices on a physician’s belt.
The end result was a 20% reduction in patient response time, which improved patient care and employee satisfaction.
BC: And can you describe some successful deployments in other industries?
MR: Yes. Our solution for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a great example. In the wake of 9/11 emergency notification requirements, they needed something that could be quickly installed and scalable, to serve as a backup as well as to deliver information to a wide variety of different devices. Emergin’s solution improved message delivery time by 93%, from 1.5 hours to less than 6 minutes.
In another example, Toyota was looking to streamline their event and alert system to instantaneously alert staff to problems on assembly line. When an assembly line goes down, every minute costs millions, so getting fast alerts to appropriate staff is critical.
By reducing the downtime associated with these events, Toyota achieved significant costs savings and increased productivity.
Another benefit was increased mobility for staff on-site, freeing staff up from having to be working at a desk in front of a monitor, watching for alerts.
Mobile devices also enable vibration alert, which is very useful in noisy manufacturing facilities, or alerting hearing impaired individuals.
BC: What’s next from Emergin?
MR: We’re working on ‘smart alarming’ or ‘presence alarming’ via location-based services and a mesh of technologies that Emergin is using for room level accuracy. So in the healthcare environment, an alert or alarm can go to the closest person available to the patient instead of a nurse way down the hall.
Response time is quicker and also trackable. Our reporting mechanism shows that the alert came to a particular clinician, and she picked it up from this specific location, and you can actually track their movement as they respond. This can transfer over into any other industry, like manufacturing.
BC: What’s next from Emergin-BlackBerry?
MR: We’ll be starting to develop more bi-directional alert and alarm applications, which will bring images or information to the device, and provide the user the option of one-touch response via voice or message. In short, we’ll be taking full advantage of the rich capabilities the platform offers for customers in Healthcare and many other industries.
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