Maximize the Potential of Your Emergency Call System

Are Senior Living Management Teams Out of Touch? The Senior Care Investor www.seniorcareinvestor.com thinks so. In a year where many strong companies in our market grew at an impressive clip, others faltered. During these periods of growth the challenges of bringing on new buildings in different states of disrepair, staff members from different performance cultures, and resident occupancy varying greatly by geographical market have restricted earning potential for even the industry leaders. To steal a quote from the SeniorCare Investor’s most recent publication, “When someone figures out how to profitably run a large chain but maintain a mom and pop feel, then that company will top the return lists every year.” Whether you are the mom and pop provider or you’re trying to create that feeling within your community, personal attention to detail and a level of concern for the quality of life and security of your residents is what creates the “I’m home” feeling.

Being there when a resident needs you, responding with the same passion you would to your own family, being able to know when you miss and make it right; these are just the first steps to creating the feeling of home. You’ve got dinner, the air conditioning, the community bus, and putting green to worry about. Let us tell you when to worry about a resident’s security and emergency health needs require your attention. Let us take care of the compliance to your internal policies.

There is amazing new and innovative technology being created every day by us and companies like ours that goes under-utilized. Many of you already own it and just aren’t taking advantage of what you’ve already bought. All you have to do is invest the time to better understand how knowing what you don’t know can change the lives of your residents.

Here’s a quick tip to ensure that your key team members are really in touch with what happens at the front lines of your communities. Follow the steps below to enable a notification sent directly to your cell phone every time a resident waits more than ten minutes for assistance. You may think your front line is staffed appropriately and responding with the same passion you would, but this will let you know for sure.

Log into your Auditrak reporting package at www.auditrak.com and select the My Auditrak tab.

Select the Contact Methods link on your My Auditrak page and ensure that your contact information is correct.

 Once your contact information is correct go back to your My Auditrak tab and select the link for Event Notification Setup.

If I were interested in Emergency Call events I would select that option from the list, it’s the last item listed in the above image, then select the option for Report after and change the value to 10 minutes.  If I select SMS as the notification option I will now receive a notification every time an Emergency Call at the selected community reaches 10 minutes without being responded to by the staff onsite.  This will give any executive a real time feel for what’s happening at the community level.  Allowing you to intervene and change the experience of your residents in nearly real time can make the difference between the feeling of home and the feeling that they are alone an uncared for.

If you’re interested in having a discussion or seeing a demonstration about how the systems you already own can allow your team to better focus their time on what matters most and ensure that leaders in your company know when things aren’t right on the front lines send me an email at mgraham@tel-tron.com or give me a call at 386-523-1078 so we can start the changes today.

Technology Makes Top Ten Senior Living Trends for 2011

From Senior Housing News comes this article about technology. Click here for full article.

I highlighted things that stuck out for me.  One thing they failed to mention was the safety piece.  The barriers to entry into this “senior monitoring business” are very low.  With many companies, safety is a marketing buzz word.  I like the mention here of industry standards and the economic value of such, however, the life safety benefit of standards is the real deal.

Technology – Monitoring Networks, Apps, Devices and Systems Integrators

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your monitoring …..Through gadgets, apps, networks and the cloud! During 2010, a trickle of vendors released new monitoring systems and delivery options. The flood gates are going to bust open as the economy heals and companies are looking to invest and expand into high growth markets. Look for continued announcements and product offerings from old and new technology companies as well as acquisitions and roll ups of related products and services for the senior care market. Some products will be “me too” products that will provide additional market choices but few, real new features. Who will win? We’re betting on well designed products that are simple without feature overload at reasonable prices.

One of the areas that will start to accelerate in 2011 is systems integrators working in local markets to deploy various monitoring systems that employ industry standards  ***See UL2560 article here *** . If vendors work within established standards, the costs for deployment and support have a higher probability of being adopted faster than those that are built upon proprietary technology. These systems integrators will need to provide better service than the Geek Squad but also know about concepts on senior living design and general contracting besides the technical nature of deployment of these networks. What are we forgetting? The most important features: selling and servicing seniors and their children. How many local GC’s are ready for this? If you said very little, you’re probably being generous. The costs of a design and tech make-over may make your stomach turn at first but if amortized over an additional 5 years in the home versus assisted or skilled care, it will seem like a bargain.  In a society of instant gratification, that will be a hard sell.

So what about safety?  It seems most folks are interested in the fire alarm.  When it comes to the “wireless nurse call” system, a standard of mediocrity exists.  If the “emergency call system”  is ever used to save a life, shouldn’t it be designed to do just that. . . . in all conditions?   If a component fails, the power goes out for several hours, the annunciator panel becomes disabled, etc., it should still be capable of saving a life.  See Tel-Tron’s website for the real deal solution.

It’s your building. How will you know…..

. . . . if something goes wrong.  

If you are like me, silence is golden.  It means that the world around you is running like it is supposed to.  It means that all of your staff members are operating in full.  – But — What if something isn’t right?  What if your staff screwed up their response to an emergency call last night, but didn’t tell you.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you were alerted?  After all, you are in charge.  

I speak with many executive directors who manage their world with a flow that seems organic in nature.  With the help of a Tel-Tron, enterprise level emergency call system, they are able to do their tasks with the confidence that their staff is working as hard as they are and no stone goes unturned throughout the day.  The Tel-Tron system, alone, does not allow them to achieve this, but it frees up their mind from worrying about one small problem that comes with life threatening consequences. 

 From time to time, all of the staff is tied up with other functions and an emergency call may take longer to respond than normal.  Nobody likes to talk about it, but it is a reality.  Sometimes, things go haywire. 

The calm, cool and collected ED has a notification set up in Auditrak that sends a message if that e-call is not re-set within 7 minutes or what ever time frame is appropriate.  This is the time when the ED wants to be involved.  That Ed may go the entire day or week and never have contact with the wireless emergency call system that was installed in the building.  However, when things go wrong, it’s time to act. 

Daily Summary Report - Emailed Automatically

The Tel-Tron Auditrak management reporting tools are especially valuable for the corporate Director of Nursing or Chief Operating Officer.  Again, a silent nurse call system means that emergency calls and personal emergency response calls are getting their responses in a timely manner.  It means there is nothing to worry about in that one small category of their lives.  In short, it means the people that they have spent time and money to hire and train are doing their jobs.  Of course, the COO is not going to run and respond when his/her Iphone starts beeping with a text or email that alerts of the situation, but they will know that something is off and perk their ears up to pay attention.  Maybe repeatedly late e-call responses are a signal that more training is needed? 

That is what the Auditrak event notification system is all about.  Whether it is a late response to an emergency call or a low battery condition in a wireless call station, Auditrak is customizable for the user.  A Tel-Tron emergency call system is not only used to notify the staff when there is an emergency.  It is used to notify management when something in their world has gone wrong. 

Does your nurse call system, call bell system, emergency call system, wireless emergency call system, or personal emergency response system, (PERS) Notify You?

Throw out that PC based system and get in the CLOUD!

Once upon a time, senior living communities paid someone to be at the front desk 24 hours a day.  They did this because the emergency call system consisted of a panel of lights and buzzers mounted on the wall.  If a resident needed help, a light would turn on and a buzzer would sound.  Someone had to be within earshot of this panel at all times, or calls for help would go unanswered.  Once they heard it, though, alerting the care givers that someone needed help was another inefficient and labor intensive task.

When Tel-Tron introduced pocket paging to the wireless emergency system call industry (100 years ago…) both problems were solved.  Care givers wore pagers and were alerted right away when a resident needed help.  This eliminated the need for panels of lights and buzzers, and the need to pay someone to watch them 24 hours a day.  This was a transformation of the way senior living providers operated their buildings and provided care to their residents.  Really, it would be hard to imagine not having pagers or some other mobile staff device today.

Portion of Auditrak Dashboard

What does this have to do with cloud computing?  Everything.  When Tel-Tron introduced Auditrak.com, another senior living transformation began.  With the release of the ethernet gateway for our CompanionOne product line, Tel-Tron’s nurse call system has completed it’s migration to the cloud.  What is the cloud and how does it help senior living, you ask?  Let me explain. (click here for the wikipedia definition)

In the pocket paging example above, people were slaves to the front desk, because that is where the alarm panel was located.  The “data” they needed to respond to resident emergencies was accessible from only one place – the front desk.  The same is true on PC based system today.

System programming information, resident usage metrics, audit trail reports, maintenance notifications, resident check-in data, even changing resident pendant codes is all located, stored and managed from the personal computer located on-site.  You have limited or no access to that data or functionality from outside the building.  You have limited or no way to keep all of that data backed up on a real time basis.  You have limited or no way to integrate that system with other systems located outside of the facility, such as your accounting, or resident management software.

Worst of all…..Once you buy a computer based system, you are saddled with never ending upgrades, maintenance contracts, having to replace the computer itself every couple years, your staff uses the computer to play games or surf the web (see previous blog about that particular nightmare), Microsoft changes operating systems routinely, loss of functionality during a power outage…  Really, the list of downside risks to a PC based system are endless.  What’s the answer?

Enter the cloud!  Instead of your entire emergency call system being controlled and run by a software program on a local PC, host all of that functionality in the cloud (on the internet).

Your on-site system includes all of the devices in the resident rooms, all of the mobile devices used by the staff, one or more alarm consoles, the wireless or hardwired monitoring infrastructure.  But the activity data, programming information, reporting software, charting and graphing software, trend analysis, and system monitoring is “hosted” offsite.  You access this site through an internet browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari.  Which means you do NOT buy a dedicated PC for the emergency call system.  You use any PC (or iphone, blackberry, ipad, etc) you want, from anywhere you want, whenever you want.

  • There is no software to upgrade on site, ever.  The hosted software is always current.
  • You don’t have to keep back-up disks, or tapes on site.  Your data is always on line and backed-up continuously.
  • You don’t have to worry about your staff breaking the computer, surfing the web, or otherwise messing up the PC.  Because THERE ISN”T ONE.  I know this is a mental leap.  But it is literally transformational to the industry.  Senior living CTO’s, IT managers, even maintenance people are loving the fact that their systems no longer are PC based or dependent.

Sample Report of All Alarms with a "Resident Wait Time" of more than 10 minutes

In addition, once your secure data is in the cloud, you don’t need to run reports any longer.  Establish operating parameters and reports will be automatically sent to you (or anyone else) whenever something occurs outside those parameters.  Two small examples:  Many Executive Directors get a report emailed to them every morning listing any emergency call where the resident’s wait time was longer than 10 minutes.  Regional Operations Directors have this same report sent to them monthly for all communities in their territory.  Regional Maintenance Directors get a weekly report automatically emailed to them of all system trouble items that have occurred, and not resolved in the appropriate time.  I know, that was three examples, but the possibilities are endless.

Last one..any notification can be sent via email, or text message.  Some Operations Vice Presidents want to know right away if there is an elopement activity such as a window alarm, or “screen removed” alarm in an memory impaired section.  Elopement is a big deal these days and an early heads-up is helpful.

I know this is a lot to take in and understand, but having your emergency call systems data hosted and managed in the internet cloud, means a whole lot less headache for on-site staff related to computers, and an almost limitless opportunity for growth and integration in the future.  Just as pagers changed the industry in the late 80s, cloud computing will change senior living over the next few years.  Just browse on over to Auditrak.com and you’ll see what I mean.

I didn’t talk specifically about this, but having a single hosted location for systems data and management is exponentially more valuable if a senior living operator has multiple sites.

One day we’ll look back and say…”Remember when we used to have a PC run our emergency call systems.  How did we ever survive?”

Enough Already. The PC has to go!

Dig hole in sand....Insert head!

All you have to do is read words in this picture, which was taken by one of our salespeople when touring a community that just installed a new emergency call system from a competitor.  WOW!  I cannot believe that someone would actually write that memo – clearly aware of the implications of not obeying – and think that just writing a note makes everything OK.

IT’S NOT OK!   You are tasked with making sure that a resident’s call for help gets answered.  And for lots of reasons, including this one, a personal computer is a completely inappropriate engine for an nurse call system.  In case you can’t read the picture, here is what it says.

“Please do not use this computer to go onto the internet.  This computer runs our nurse call system and is vitally important.  Thanks, Jane.”

Jane – Rather than writing a memo, you should have thrown that system out and replaced it with one that is not computer based.  Can any of you think of a single system that is a life safety device that runs on a Windows computer?  Please leave a comment to this post if you can.

Defibrillators? No.  Airplane Avionics?  No.  Dialysis Equipment? No.  Automobile Electronics?  No.

When you hear about someone who is on “life support,” do you think it would be wise to have that equipment run by a Windows computer?  No way.  So why is it OK to put the lives of senior living residents in the temperamental control of a Windows personal computer?  Short answer….It isn’t!  They freeze up.  They need rebooting.  Software needs updating.  They aren’t battery backed up for longer than a few minutes.  Really the list is endless.

Staff can close the program.  Staff can turn them off (on purpose, or on accident).  And, as in the case captured in this picture, staff can browse the internet while calls for help go unanswered.  It simply isn’t necessary.

On an enterprise quality nurse call system, the main servers, switches, routers and gateways use embedded systems, industrial microcontrollers, sophisticated power supplies, elaborate supervision and battery back-up methodologies.  There are design tolerances measured in sub-1% range.  User GUIs are browser based and access data on the system, but do not control the system.  Visit Auditrak.com, for an example of a killer call system GUI that resides in the cloud.

As I looked at the picture in the beginning of this article, I was so frustrated at the lack of seriousness with which Jane took her role as caregiver.  In fairness, Jane probably did not select that system.  Someone at her corporate office, who doesn’t have to respond to an emergency call – ever – probably picked it as a result of their beauraucratic purchasing system.  Still…the kind of compromise and accommodation Jane is forced into is simply not necessary.  There are other options.

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