Western Maryland Health System Expands Use of Versus RTLS to Enhance Staff Safety

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TRAVERSE CITY — Western Maryland Health System has recently expanded use of its Real-time Locating System from Versus Technology Inc. (Pink Sheets: VSTI.PK), using their existing sensory network to implement the Visibility Staff Assist system.

Deployed in WMHS’ Behavioral Health Unit, Staff Assist provides a mobile, location-aware call button for caregivers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey conducted 2005 to 2009, mental health occupations had one of the highest rates of workplace violence, second only to law enforcement.  A 2011 survey by the Emergency Nurses Association found panic buttons to be one of the only environmental measures associated with a lower rate of workplace violence in health care.

Because WMHS is committed to enhancing the safety of its staff, the hospital sought to improve safety protocols for behavioral health workers. They selected Versus’ Staff Assist solution because it could easily be added to their existing RTLS network, says Jeffery D. O’Neal, LCPC, the systems director for WMHS’ Behavioral and Occupational Health Services department.

WMHS, located in Cumberland, Md., has been using Versus’ RTLS since 2009 for asset tracking, patient tracking and egress control. By leveraging the existing RTLS sensory network in the Behavioral Health Unit, implementation of Staff Assist involved only installing software and providing Versus Clearview Badges, equipped with call buttons, to staff members.

“We saw an opportunity to expand the Versus system using the same sensors,” explains O’Neal. “By providing badges to our staff, if they find themselves in a precarious situation with an aggressive or threatening patient, they are able to push the button on the badge and trigger what we call a ‘code green,’ or a crisis response team.”

When a badge button is pressed, the Staff Assist software sends a pop-up alert showing both the staff member’s name and location to workstations in the facility’s call center, as well as to the nurse’s station and Ascom phones. The person’s current location is also highlighted on Versus’ Enterprise View Floorplan, which displays a map of the unit. Call Center workers then call the code, knowing both the name and exact location of the staff member in crisis.

O’Neal said the mobile panic button provided by Staff Assist is an improvement over previous safety protocols.

“Staff would have to use their portable telephone to call a code which they may not have been able to do if they were being attacked by a client,” O’Neal said.

Staff members in WMHS’ Behavioral Health Unit feel the system has not only improved safety, but also morale.

“Working in the behavioral health unit can be stressful,” said Vicki Svensson, RN, nurse manager. “Knowing that our hospital places priority on our safety, and gives us a way to call for help, really helps ease our minds as we care for our patients.”

The success WMHS experienced in improving patient safety with Versus’ RTLS led them to consider the Staff Assist solution.

“The thing that has impressed me the most is how accurate the system is,” O’Neal said. “We’ve had patients who have tried leaving the behavioral health unit, and using Versus (for egress alerts), we’re always able to get the patient right in the main hall. We have not had any elopements from our unit since we started using Versus. From a safety perspective, that’s huge.”

By using the same network for multiple applications — asset tracking, patient tracking, egress control, and now Staff Assist — WMHS significantly lowers the total cost of ownership for their RTLS.

As a bonus, Staff Assist was paid for with a patient safety grant.

“Our health system had already made a commitment to support the expansion of the Versus system, but it being paid for by a grant was great,” O’Neal said.

Life Safety Solutions Integrators, a Certified Versus System Integrator located in Timonium, Md., installed and provides ongoing support for the Versus sensory network. More at www.lifesafetysystems-lss.com.

The Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland provides a wide range of health care services for residents in Allegany and Garrett Counties in Maryland and surrounding counties in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. WMHS includes the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center, a 275-bed facility that opened in November 2009.  Other components include a nursing home, outpatient diagnostic centers, and a network of urgent care clinics, primary care centers and physician practices. More at  www.wmhs.com.

Established in 1988, Versus Technology specializes in real-time location systems for health care. Used by more than 700 hospitals for enterprise patient tracking, bed management, asset tracking, and nurse call automation, Versus improves patient flow and documentation of caregiver and patient interactions, while enhancing communication and efficiency. Exclusively endorsed by the American Hospital Association, the Versus infrared and Active RFID solution is responsible for clinical-grade location and automation at a number of hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities worldwide.

More at www.versustech.com.

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