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Wireless Safety in the Workplace

Thu, 10/17/2013 - 2:25pm
Meaghan Ziemba, Editor

Spectralink SAFE helps solve workplace safety issues for healthcare organizations.

Nurse uses Spectralink SAFE handset. Photo Credit: Spectralink. Healthcare employees face a range of potential hazards on a daily basis; from infectious diseases to patient altercations in psychiatric and emergency departments. Boulder-CO based Spectralink has created a staff safety solution for Spectralink wireless handsets, Spectralink SAFE, which is designed to help solve the increasing safety issues for mobile workers within healthcare, retail, and manufacturing.

Healthcare Trends

“We saw increasing concerns about staff safety in hospitals, especially with nurses,” says Mike Lanciloti, vice president of marketing and product management at Spectralink. “Another trend we saw converging with the safety concerns, was the increasing reliance on devices that wirelessly communicate with each other. In certain situations, a wireless device can be the only communication tool that a nurse has when working.”

A third trend that Lanciloti notes, deals with the mandatory and legislated functionality requirements of certain occupations.

“In some parts of the world, such as Australia, Germany, and France, nurses or lone workers are required to have some kind of device that can send a signal if there is some kind of distress situation,” says Lanciloti.

Generally, the communication system is set up as a building wireless network, which nearly all healthcare facilities have. “It’s not the mobile network that you and I use on our personal cell phones,” explains Lanciloti. “This is a dedicated wireless network, generally Wi-Fi, which connects portable medical devices that are becoming more Wi-Fi enabled.”

These particular devices piggy-back on the existing infrastructure that already exists in the healthcare facilities. The devices look like a ruggedized cell phone.

“It is really easy to change the battery, and these types of devices get dropped a lot. They get sprayed with water, and are sometimes cleaned with very harsh chemicals. They are still expected to be used for years and years.”

Spectralink Wi-Fi handset. Photo Credit: SpectralinkA New Model

The Spectralink SAFE is a new model of the current devices available, with additional capabilities that would detect certain distress situations; for example, if a nurse is running, has fallen over, or is not moving.

One of the biggest challenges Lanciloti points out, deals with configuration and customization. Every department and facility is different, and a solution needed to be created to prevent false alarms. “Nurses run all the time, even in non-emergency situations,” explains Lanciloti. “The phone needs to be able to determine which is which.”

The main features that can be configured, and are usually indicative of some kind of emergency situation, include movement, rate of movement, and lack of movement. “One example of a nurse down situation, would include lack of movement for a certain period of time, plus the phone being positioned a certain way [horizontally or vertically],” says Lanciloti. “That particular situation is something that can be highly configured to indicate an emergency situation.”

Components

An accelerometer identifies each individual’s situation and helps to set certain thresholds, like rate of movement, time for no movement, etc. With real-time location services (RTLS) software, the exact physical location can also be identified, which can be important to determine if a nurse is in distress. "If a nurse is not moving, it may mean she is just sitting down eating lunch," says Lanciloti. "By knowing employees' locations also helps prevent false alarms."

The device is also designed around the 802.11 Wi-Fi, DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications), and SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standards.

“We also include middleware software, generally from third parties, which determines what actions to take when a distress alarm is triggered, like sending a text message or have the phone call someone,” says Lanciloti. “The nurse also has the ability to manually hit an alarm button.”

The Spectralink SAFE device is a huge step in providing nurses with more functionality in a single device that they require to successfully do their jobs in a safe manner.

“There is a lot of pressure for nurses to be more efficient and effective at the same time, and one of Spectralink’s objectives is to help solve those issues by creating very powerful and functional devices,” says Lanciloti.

This article appeared in the September/October print issue.

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