Queen of Peace

Queen of Peace

Hospital strengthens staff security with expanded enterprise mobile duress system

A study by the Emergency Nurses Association conducted in 2011 indicated that 55 percent of emergency nurses reported an experience with verbal abuse or physical violence within the week prior to being questioned for the study. Another 25 percent of nurses reported being the victims of frequent physical violence in the previous three years.

Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, located in Mitchell, S.D., a member of the Avera Healthcare System, consists of a large family of hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities and home health/hospice agencies in eastern South Dakota and neighboring states. This 120-bed hospital employs roughly 620 staff members and is dedicated to providing quality healthcare services to the rural communities of southeastern South Dakota.

Based on industry studies similar to the one mentioned here, this hospital places a high degree of importance on employee safety and has expanded its mobile duress system to create a safer workplace environment for its healthcare professionals.

The Future Plan

Located in Louisville, Colo., Inovonics makes people protection systems and high-performance wireless sensor networks for commercial and life-safety applications. For the past 15 years, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital has used the Inovonics’ Vision Plus security panel and accompanying Inovonics life-safety, wireless infrastructure.

For the first generation Vision Plus installation, the locations of the mobile duress alarms were “registered” into the system so that a staff member could sign out a pendant assigned to a specific area in the hospital where he or she would be located during their shift. If a duress call went out, the corresponding location would be tied to the pendant’s registered location, even if the employee was located in a different area. The original system was implemented over a small portion of the hospital, and alarm alerts were delivered to a central monitoring station, allowing coverage of about 75,000 square feet of the hospital.

“When we installed the Vision Plus system, it worked very well,” said Glen Vilhauer, operations supervisor at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital. “The system was incredibly reliable and met our needs, until some staff members voiced concern about increasing security problems on the hospital campus. They were uneasy that the old system only worked in the specific area that the pendant was programmed for.”

With limited coverage, many areas of the hospital were left vulnerable. For example, a panic button programmed only for the ICU protected staff members in that area. In the event that an incident occurred en route to the ICU or in the waiting room, the pendant would prompt security to the ICU rather than to the location where the incident actually occurred. Eventually, the hospital realized that it needed a new system that would cover the entire hospital and surrounding grounds. The ideal solution would provide location capability that corresponded to a staff member’s whereabouts as they moved in and around the facility, which they do naturally as part of their daily responsibilities.

“Once these concerns were vocalized, we began to look for a comprehensive solution that not only could apply to the entire hospital, but could offer location capabilities in every corner of the building,” Vilhauer said. “Because of our success with the existing system, we looked to Inovonics, and they had just the solution that could meet those needs.”

The Next Generation

Radius, a second-generation Enterprise Mobile Duress System (EMDS) that leverages a life-safety, wireless infrastructure and duress pendants to locate a mobile person when and where they need help has been the ideal solution.

Providing the pinpointed location for the person in distress, Radius quickly notifies responders of the location, making Radius’ EMD location capabilities the type of system Vilhauer needed. The system, however, is not based on GPS technology, which is known to be inadequate in indoor environments, but relies on a secure wireless network and server to process location information from panic buttons, monitor other information from the Inovonics wireless network and coordinate notification of the pertinent information.

If a panic button were to be activated at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital, the signal would automatically be transmitted to Radius, which would then process and locate the position of the event, immediately alert the appropriate response team and direct them to where help is needed.

The Radius Server

In order to ensure complete protection for hospital employees, Radius needed to cover approximately 300,000 square feet of the facility. The equipment included a Radius server with a voice card, two voice ports, a radio interface, 36 repeaters, 20 panic buttons and 10 universal transmitters. The server was installed directly onto Avera Queen of Peace’s network with one voice port connected to the radio interface and the second voice port connected to its phone system, which also interfaces to voice pagers and the VoIP system.

Multiple repeaters were installed on each story of the building to ensure location accuracy; however, Vilhauer stressed the importance of being thorough when placing the repeaters in appropriate locations. Therefore, prior to the actual installation, Inovonics assisted Vilhauer in conducting a site survey using a demonstrator repeater and panic buttons that allowed Vilhauer and his team to map out the coverage areas and determine where each repeater should be located to ensure optimal coverage. This part of the installation helped to guarantee that when a panic button is pushed, the right location is identified.

Mobile panic buttons were assigned to staff members along with fixed, universal transmitters installed in walk-in cooling units with fixed panic buttons. Additionally, fixed panic buttons were located in the pharmacy, at the nuclear accelerator and in the emergency room. These panic buttons ensure reliable data transmission to a range of hospital staff and timely response during emergency situations.

If a nurse experiences problems without help nearby, he or she simply pushes the button, and security and plant operations are instantly paged with a code name that identifies the emergency. Radius sends the same code to the Avera Queen of Peace emergency hotline, prompting attendants to page security and plant operations. A voice message is sent across two-way radios to 24-hour security, plant operations and the admitting staff.

Radius also allows the hospital to expand the coverage of the duress system beyond the main hospital building to outlying clinics and parking lots.

“This means our staff reaps the benefits of Radius beyond the walls of the hospital building,” Vilhauer said. “It’s comforting to know that if one of our staff members was forced outside of the building, we could still determine their location. We were extremely impressed to see the system performing in ways that have exceeded our expectations and initial needs.”

Thwarting Danger

Since implementing the Radius EMDS, Avera Queen of Peace Hospital has been extremely pleased with the results. The most critical benefit is the hospital’s ability to locate pendants anywhere on the hospital campus, even outside of the building. This is a 75 percent increase in coverage from the original installation. According to Vilhauer, the staff, especially those who work overnight, now feel more at ease knowing that the pendants can determine their location anywhere in the hospital, instead of only in designated areas.

“We were pleasantly surprised that Radius provides coverage outside of the hospital as well as in remote areas at our facility,” Vilhauer said. “While our first priority is for our staff to be safe and feel comfortable with our security system, perhaps one of the most exciting benefits since implementing Radius has been the additional value we are realizing from the system. Not only have we addressed the safety concerns of our staff, we have also improved operating functions throughout the facility.”

This article originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Security Today.


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