BayCare Health System Transforms Bedside Care with iPhone App

August 18, 2021
A nurse holding the PatientTouch device

Editor's note: Effective October 27, 2021, Vocera has renamed its app Vocera Edge Communications (previously PatientTouch).

Just a few years ago, communication between BayCare’s clinical team members was effective but could be cumbersome. Many clinicians carried a pager, wireless work phone, personal cell phone and workstation on wheels for access to patients’ medical records.

So, in late 2018, Tim Thompson, BayCare’s chief information officer, began to look for secure and efficient smartphone-based communication for clinicians. After 18 months, the team deployed a pilot, assessed the results and established a solution. BayCare has more than 5,000 active PatientTouch users per day during the week and nearly 200 providers per day.

Today, that solution supports bedside clinicians across the system – most BayCare nurses and providers now carry an iPhone equipped with the PatientTouch clinical communication, collaboration and documentation platform from Vocera Edge (previously PatientSafe Solutions). 

PatientTouch gives clinicians the ability to view key patient information, document patient data, administer medications and communicate directly via call or text right from their phone. Additionally, patient requests are sent immediately to the phones of the patient’s care team to expedite response.  

“When we set out to provide our clinicians with a secure and efficient communications solution, we envisioned a platform that would let them communicate, collaborate and engage with medical records right from their phone,” Thompson said. “PatientTouch allows them to do exactly that. Information is power, and with this platform our clinicians have been given the power to care for patients to the absolute best of their abilities.”

While the gradual move to mobile devices at the bedside has been gaining steam within U.S. health systems, BayCare’s approach is notable for several reasons.

  • BayCare leadership leveraged their Innovation Team to fast-track a full hospital pilot program in only 4 months. This rapid deployment model allowed the project team to assess gaps and inform an enterprise deployment model with a high level of confidence of success.
  • BayCare’s commitment to resourcing the project with a dedicated cross-functional team supported shared learning and allowed the health system to implement the platform in a new hospital every 1-2 months – a pace not previously seen in the industry. Each of the system’s 14 hospitals are online with the platform.
  • Feedback from clinical staff has been actively solicited throughout the project and incorporated into ongoing system design, resulting in rapid and sustained adoption of the new processes and technology.

Benefits to Clinical Staff

Caring for hospital patients is a complex job, and while the widespread adoption of Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems has had many benefits, it has also created challenges including the high percentage of time clinicians must spend at workstations to review task lists and records. 

BayCare’s deployment of the PatientTouch platform has brought several innovations that reduce these burdens. PatientTouch connects with BayCare’s Cerner EMR to pull out specific task notifications and send them to the appropriate care team members immediately. Notifications to the clinician’s iPhone allows them to react quickly to time-sensitive needs. In addition to physicians and the nursing team, Pharmacy, Rehab, Laboratory, Respiratory Therapy, Care Coordination and other departments are equipped to use the technology.

Staff immediately adopted the system’s secure texting feature, streamlining communication across the patient’s care team. Nurses and nursing assistants can also now enter patient information directly into the PatientTouch application on their iPhones, which in turn feeds it to the Cerner EMR, making it much easier and more efficient to document critical patient data for BayCare’s advanced patient safety systems.

“Clinical excellence depends on seamless communication between nursing staff, physicians and patients,” said Lisa Johnson, BayCare’s chief nursing officer. “It also depends on having the right information in the right place at the right time. This new platform allows our clinicians to communicate with one another easily, stay connected with their patients and keep EMRs secure and accessible. All this allows them to provide the high-quality care BayCare is known for.”

Long-Term Vision

Initiated by the dedicated Innovation Team, BayCare’s relationship with Vocera Edge stemmed from strategy meetings with technology leaders at Apple and Cisco, and reflects a vision that extends well beyond the features deployed on the iPhones today. 

With the success of the deployment, BayCare has added additional functionality within the PatientTouch application to keep improving the efficiency of their caregivers, such as notifications related to inbound patients and alarm notifications generated from patient monitoring equipment. BayCare has adopted a formal process to review requests from clinical and Information Technology staff as they learn of innovative concepts that promise value to their employees.

“At BayCare, we’re always looking for opportunities to innovate and invest in improving both the patient and staff experience,” said Craig Anderson, BayCare’s director of innovation. “Along with our deployment of voice assistant technology in patient rooms and virtual reality to benefit surgical planning, the PatientTouch project is just another example of how BayCare stays on the cutting edge of patient care.”

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