In the past, when people worked from home or in remote locations, communication was hampered by the fact that the Internet was in its infancy, email and Wi-Fi had yet to be created, and cell phones were the size of bricks and often cost thousands. Essentially, land lines were the only means of reaching out to your peers, and that said, even those were not always reliable.
Since then, it’s become almost a rite of passage for businesses to have a mobile strategy in place. Each employee is equipped with a mobile device, whether they are using their own or one provided by their employer. Communicating while out in the field is a reality, allowing for information sharing and collaboration to take place in real time.
The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) has used mobility to its advantage for dealing with patient placement and its housekeeping department. The hospital implemented the Oculys healthcare platform across its network of BlackBerry mobile devices, allowing them to decrease the waiting time for beds by 50 per cent.
Sarah Padfield, vice president and CFO of CKHA, spoke to IT in Canada about why the hospital chose to use BlackBerry for communication, and how the facility has benefited from using their products.
IT in Canada: Why did CKHA choose BlackBerry?
Padfield: We have been a BlackBerry Enterprise organization for as long as we’ve had smartphones. We run BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) as part of our enterprise solution. When we started to talk about evolving this workforce tool for our housekeepers, one of the things we knew was while we weren’t putting major amounts of patient information on the system, there was going to be some information there. As a result, we really needed to ensure that we had security features to protect it.
ITIC: Prior to adopting BlackBerry, what challenges did CKHA’s housekeeping department face?
SP: We have around 20 to 25 housekeepers working anywhere across the buildings on our campus on any given day. We have eight floors with multiple units, and we had no way of communicating with them directly, so we either had to run after them and find them, or we would be calling from the various management units to try and track them down.
When we were urgently trying to admit a patient to the ICU from the emergency department and a bed needed to be cleaned fairly quickly, there was no way to relay that information in a quick, concise fashion, other than chasing people down and trying to locate them physically. That was one of the basic issues with this, and we had to find a better way of communicating.
Interestingly enough, we found that in many cases, some of the housekeepers were already (using mobile devices) to communicate themselves. There was an informal BBM group of housekeepers and managers that would use personal devices to communicate in that way. I saw that happening at an event we had, and I thought we could probably do better as an organization if we just facilitate more effective communication.
ITIC: How did BlackBerry help to address these challenges?
SP: We worked both with our partner applications under Oculys Healthcare, as well as with BlackBerry. We were very familiar with the BlackBerry environment, and one of the things we were working on developing was a new product and application and new workflows.
Several people were very familiar with BlackBerry’s smartphones, and Z10s and Z30s that we’re using in this deployment are so simple to use that there wasn’t a huge learning curve for people to learn how to access the application and use BBM, so it was very easy for us to adopt BlackBerry as a technology tool within our organization.
ITIC: How has CKHA benefited from using BlackBerry?
SP: We are definitely seeing improved, (timelier) communication. We are also seeing (improvement in) areas where we’ve had bottlenecks in, (such as) cleaning a bed or responding to other issues that housekeeping needs to take care of. Our housekeepers are absolutely valued members of our staff, and we were willing to make this investment in them. It’s really increased the morale of that group.
ITIC: Will CKHA continue to use BlackBerry’s products and services in the future?
SP: Absolutely. We’re excited about some of the new technology platforms, and their communication tools continue to get better. For healthcare, the most critical factor in evaluating any kind of technology is security, especially regarding sensitive patient data. We are certainly quite confident and comfortable with BlackBerry’s ability to maintain the kinds of security requirements we’re working with.
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