App may oust iffy pagers from hospitals

MONICA TISCHLER
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014
 Aparna Soman
Monica Tischler
BETTER COMMUNICATION: Waitakere Hospital nurse Aparna Soman says Smartpage is easy to use and makes communication between nurses and doctors more direct.

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Problems with hospital pagers have prompted a trial of smartphone technology by the Waitemata District Health Board.

The smartphone application Smartpage has replaced old pagers on Waitakere Hospital's wards from 4pm till 8am weekdays and on the weekend while doctors are on-call.

It allows more reliable and direct communication between nurses and doctors, resulting in better patient care.

Waitakere Hospital nurse Aparna Soman says she can now categorise cases depending on urgency so doctors can identify the patient's condition and act accordingly.

"Last week I had a patient whose vital signs weren't good - her heart rate was going up.

"The doctor said he'd be there in a minute and I felt better.

"With the old paging system, you could be waiting for a long time and not know what to do," she says.

Smartpage is being used in the medicine, surgery and obstetrics and gynaecology departments at both Waitakere and North Shore hospitals.

It works on 3G or wi-fi networks and enables nurses to send instant messages from their desktop computer to the on-call doctor's hospital-allocated smartphone.

Detailed clinical information, current conditions and photos can also be sent if needed.

Founder of OnCall Health and former Auckland University medical school student Aidan Gill is the brains behind Smartpage.

While working on the wards himself, Dr Gill found the old-fashioned paging system needed to be upgraded because of some of the "worst issues in terms of time wastage and patient safety", he says.

Time delays often mean patients are seen much later than they should be, at which stage their condition could be much worse.

Only 100 characters can be used on a pager and messages can take up to three minutes to go through, even then there is no way of telling if the doctor has received it, Dr Gill says.

Waitemata District Health Board head of division for medicine Jonathan Christiansen says Smartpage has transformed the interactions between nursing staff and junior doctors after hours and will enhance patient care and safety.

"On call doctors can now offer clinical advice, prioritise tasks and review the progress of patients over multiple wards with greater efficiency and accuracy.

"The two-way communication is a great advantage for nursing staff, relieving the frustration and uncertainty that are the norm with standard paging systems," he says.

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The application will be trialled until June 2015 when the board will decide if it's rolled out permanently.

- Western Leader

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