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Island Health wins innovation award for research project involving smartphone communication for better patient care

June 27, 2017
Island Health's Pharmacy Team

When is a smart phone truly smart? When it improves the way hospital care teams communicate to provide better service and care for their patients.

Island Health recently received BC Health Care’s Gold Apple Top Innovation Award for its Integrated Smartphone Communication Technology (ISCT) research project which studied the use of smartphones in hospital settings.

The project engaged pharmacists, nurses, doctors and hospital switchboard staff who used a secure smartphone app or desktop computer to relay important medical information about their patients. The system saw quicker response times than traditional paging and allowed for more detailed information sharing to better convey the level of urgency of the message.

Dr. Sean Spina, ISCT Project Lead and Clinical Coordinator for Pharmacy Services at Island Health, says it is critical for hospital pharmacists to communicate with physicians and nurses throughout the day to ensure patient medication needs are safely managed. “Before smartphones, care teams relied on pagers, which didn’t allow us to express the nature and urgency of the page,” says Spina. “Through this project, we discovered that smartphone technology shortens our response times and reduces the number of times physicians were interrupted when caring for patients, simply by putting all the necessary details right at our fingertips in that initial message.”

Study participants used the Vocera® Collaboration Suite (VCS) which combines voice calls, texts, and alerts into one secure smartphone application. Using VCS on their iPhones, the average response times dropped from 5.5 minutes to 3 minutes with physicians reporting that interruptions to patient care dropped from 77% to 32% while using the system.

“This innovative project demonstrates what can be achieved when multidisciplinary teams work together to address challenges and make significant changes that support the whole care team to improve patient care,” says Dr. Brendan Carr, President and CEO, Island Health.

Dr. Spina says that Island Health is already looking to extend their work by bridging the communication gap between family physicians and hospital physicians in the near future. He is working with the Victoria and South Island Divisions of Family Practice to offer the collaboration platform to family doctors. “We see this as an incredible opportunity to improve communication so we can support patients who are transferring between hospital and home,” “Seamless communication between care providers means safer transitions for patients regardless of their care setting,” says Spina.  

For more information, watch HEABC’s video about the project.

Media contact:
Meribeth Burton
Media Relations
250.519.1815
Meribeth.Burton@viha.ca