Vocera’s Prescription for Healing Communication Chaos

At Vocera, technology solutions are co-designed by those who understand hospital communication challenges

The Vocera badge allows hands-free communication for clinicians on the go through the use of voice commands. Courtesy of Vocera Communications

Healthcare is an inherently chaotic environment. That’s why, as Drs. Rhonda Collins and Ben Kanter of Vocera explain, it’s so important for hospitals to implement a single communication system that makes clinical workflows and care team collaboration easier.

“In a hospital environment, clinicians are taking care of people who are likely experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives,” Collins explains. “Managing the human condition can be unpredictable and fatiguing at times. That is why we are working diligently to provide human-centered technology that supports the well-being of patients, families, and care teams, and creates an ideal healing and working environment.”

Rhonda Collins, Vocera Communications Photo by Ahmad Askar

Since 2000, Vocera has been developing solutions that effectively solve healthcare communication and workflow challenges. Initially, the Silicon Valley company was known for its Vocera Badge, a wearable voice-controlled device. But as mobile healthcare evolved and the need for secure communication grew, Vocera expanded its technology to an all-inclusive digital platform that provides hands-free communication as well as secure text messaging, alert and alarm management, and interoperability with more than 140 clinical and operational systems.

Worldwide, more than 1,700 facilities, including nearly 1,500 hospitals and healthcare facilities, have selected Vocera solutions to improve team communication, speed response times, reduce alarm fatigue, increase staff well-being, and improve patient care, safety and experience.

The Vocera platform provides an intuitive system based on a deep well of research and awareness about why communication and workflow challenges occur and what is actually needed to address them. This is where Kanter, the company’s chief medical information officer, and Collins, its chief nursing officer, both come in. As a physician, Kanter was in private practice for twenty-five years, and he served as chief of staff and CMIO at Palomar Medical Center and Pomerado Hospital prior to working with healthcare IT companies. Collins, likewise, spent nearly twenty years in hospital leadership positions before transitioning to the healthcare technology industry.

Ben Kanter, Vocera Communications Photo by Ahmad Askar

At Vocera, one of Kanter’s roles is to represent the voice of physicians and gather data from clinical partners for next-generation technology, while Collins captures the voice of nurses and focuses on bridging gaps between patients, caregivers, and technology. Supporting them in this work at Vocera is a dedicated team of more than forty clinical executives who regularly meet with clinical and IT professionals to conduct clinical communication assessments and identify faster, better ways to connect people and information and simplify clinical workflows.

What makes the Vocera system so impactful, Collins and Kanter explain, is that it is designed to make communications more meaningful. “In the midst of sensory overload from alerts, alarms, texts, and calls, clinicians need to know what is the important information that requires action now,” Kanter explains. “We help turn data from multiple digital systems into actionable, timely information that improves clinical workflows and patient care.”

The Vocera platform is built to manage information from multiple systems and deliver it via voice, text, or alert, using real-time situational awareness about the patient and each member of the care team. The platform’s intelligence helps reduce interruption or alarm fatigue by understanding the relevance of data from each system, its potential impact on patient care, and the availability of each care team, sending only actionable messages with context to the right clinician on the right device.

For example, because all communication goes through an integrated platform, it knows the number of calls, texts, alerts, and notifications each team member has received within a certain time frame. So, it can redirect the next communication to a clinician who is available. If a nurse is responding to a code blue, for example, she should not receive calls, messages, alerts or alarms until the code is completed. Triage and escalation rules in the platform accommodate provider-centric factors as well as operational context to make this type of determination.

“Empowering patients to communicate directly with their care team has hugely improved the healthcare experience for patients.”

Interoperability with hundreds of clinical and operational systems means that care team members using Vocera technology are empowered with contextual, patient-centric information anywhere and on any device. The system makes it easy to loop in any additional physician or caregiver without any chance of error being added to the message. “If a patient is having a heart rhythm disturbance, we’re able to add additional clinical context to the conversation by attaching information from other sources such as an electronic health record,” Kanter says.

The fact that the Vocera is intuitively comprehensive adds to its sophistication; it makes sense of where to send the right information from multiple systems about different patients to hundreds of care team members using various communication devices. The integrated platform enables a patient using a nurse call button to directly contact their specific caregiver through their mobile device, rather than sending that call to the nursing station, where it must be triaged or might not be responded to quickly.

“For a patient that wait is like dog years,” Collins says. “Empowering patients to communicate directly with their care team has hugely improved the healthcare experience for patients.” This human connection provides dual benefits: speeding up response times to patients’ needs and increasing the likelihood of high patient satisfaction scores, which impact reimbursement.

The Vocera technology is co-designed by a clinical leadership team that understands and cares about delivering a solution that addresses healthcare communication challenges today and in the future. “We focus on consulting with our customers, and we really do try to solve problems, rather than sell a product,” Collins says. “Decisions are being made about technology that will affect hospital staff for decades to come. It is so important to have early and consistent collaboration between clinical and IT executives in healthcare organizations to make sure the right technology is used to its fullest extent by the right end users.”

For Kanter, who has focused for many years on solving issues that come with the rapid pace of change in the digital environment, it’s also about having a safe, secure and easy way to adapt to that change. “If there’s too much change over too short a period of time, chaos can ensue, and a chaotic care environment is bad for everyone involved, both clinicians and patients,” Kanter says.

A particularly pressing challenge for hospitals now, he adds, is that to be competitive, they need to be agile. “One of our major goals is to use our system’s integrations, rules engine, and communications technologies to turn data into information that’s actionable in real time,” Kanter says.