Talk before you walk – bringing wireless efficiency to nursing 


Management teams are challenged to determine which tools and technologies will provide immediate, practical solutions to maintain top-notch patient care. More hospitals are examining the benefits of deploying on-site wireless communication systems that meet the mobile demands of hospital personnel. The goal of an on-site wireless telephone system, such as Ascom, is to enable mobile employees to remain accessible within their working environment, allowing them to make and receive calls as they would from a desk phone.


Providing caregivers and hospital staff with wireless handheld telephones designed specifically for hospital applications can dramatically improve communication, streamline processes and ultimately, enhance patient care.

Device Distinctions

The ability to make and receive calls from anywhere on a hospital campus using an on-site handheld device differs from traditional desktop telephones, pagers, cellular phones, overhead paging and two-way radios, and the newer wireless Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Desktop telephones have obvious limitations on mobility, as the user can only access the phone to make or receive calls from a fixed location.


Paging devices only receive text or numeric data, but have no capability for two-way voice communication. Cellular phones and two-way radios can present several problems as a communication tool within the hospital environment because they are prohibited in many areas due to the associated high powered Radio Frequency (RF) emissions that can interfere with sensitive equipment such as heart monitoring systems.  Overhead paging systems add to the noise level on hospital floors, are an unreliable way to reach needed personnel, and can also compromise patient confidentiality.


VoIP provides the ability for voice and data to operate on the same network, and is an emerging technology that still faces many challenges. Though a few manufacturers now market VoIP, the systems still falls short in the areas of voice quality, voice and data prioritization and compatibility. On-site wireless telephone systems that are designed specifically to meet the demands of a hospital environment overcome these limitations and restrictions by integrating specific features that support crucial hospital needs.


Talk before you walk

An important feature of an advanced on-site wireless telephone system, such as Ascom, is its ability to easily integrate with and augment existing nurse call systems. A “talk before you walk” capability enables a mobile primary caregiver to accept a patient call on his wireless telephone no matter where they are on the hospital floor, they speak directly to the patient and immediately assess their needs. This alone can have an impact on the nurses’ workload. With traditional nurse call systems, a patient is required to signal a central nursing station, from which the call notice is then relayed to the primary caregiver’s pocket pager or via the hospital intercom system. It is then necessary for the caregiver to walk to the patient’s room to determine and address the patient’s needs. The ability to receive and respond immediately to a patient call made directly to the caregiver’s wireless handset conserves steps, saves time and expedites tasks in an efficient manner that positively affects the quality of patient care.


A valuable function of some integrated wireless systems, allows a caregiver to either forward the patient call and assign services by invoking predefined tasks, or automatically escalate the call to the assigned secondary caregiver. This functionality ensures that when the nurse is currently occupied with another patient, the call will not be delayed, and the patient’s needs are addressed in a timely manner.


The most valuable systems serve the communication needs of not only nurses, but other mobile staff such as physicians, lab technicians and security personnel as well. Selecting an on-site wireless telephone system that offers a complete package of advanced functions can help achieve this goal. When a system has the ability to interface with a hospital’s Local Area Network (LAN), staff members can set their own call management parameters to fit their schedules. This function allows staff to access their call routing options via their Web browser so they can remain accessible whether they are on or off the hospital campus. A comprehensive package also includes functionality that allows the wireless phone to receive text messages that relay crucial patient information, as well as alarms and monitoring alerts that give staff real-time access to information.

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