Hospital tech

Dr Ben Kanter: The future of digital communication in hospitals

The pandemic has highlighted positive technological innovations such as video and phone consultations, that have happened due to the pandemic, but we have also seen areas for improvement when it comes to digital communication.

Dr Ben Kanter, MD, FCCP, Chief Medical Information Officer at Vocera, spoke to NHE about some of the communication challenges already present in hospitals before the pandemic, as well as the main discussion points ahead of the NHE365 event on 23 June. He will be on the second Leader’s Debate discussion for new innovation.

The main areas Dr Kanter will discuss are:

  • Gaps in caregiver safety and communications, including the technological action needed going forward.
  • Innovation produced in telemedicine as a result of the pandemic.
  • Importance of ensuring clinical team members remain in communication with each other while caring for patients in isolation.

He spoke of how prior gaps in safety and communication weren’t at a sufficient threshold to trigger action, and how hospitals had to become creative in their use of telemedicine during the pandemic.

He explained: “Hospitals are basically counter punchers; they wait for something to happen and then attack it. There’s so many competing priorities for capital that hospitals need, that whatever they want to spend resources on, has to rise to a certain level of attention.”

Dr Kanter described how important communication was for nurses and the problems caused by not being able to get help in isolation areas. He discussed some of the risks of not having the right communication. One being staff having to remove their PPE, and the high self-contamination rate involved when removing PPE.

He commented: “The challenges of caring for patients in isolation are very different than in ordinary circumstances; that nurse needs to be able to remain in communication with the rest of his or her team, and that was a gap that was present in most hospitals.

“Without communications, you end up with points of friction and you can't get your patients out the door in order to get new patients in the door. Without communication gear you're forced to take your PPE off before you leave the room to go get help. You shouldn't need to risk contamination to have communication.”

Dr Kanter has a background as a pulmonary critical care physician, spending 25 years working in intensive care units. He shared some of the lessons learned through his experience: “I really understand that in medicine it’s about a team that cares for the patient, it's not just one person, and so we can't isolate our team members. So, one of the things in my experience is that it's absolutely crucial we keep our teams in communication.

“I was on a hospital's Executive Committee and in order to handle a surge of patients, you've got to make sure your hospital throughput is really maximized and efficient.”

Dr Kanter’s work focusses on technology and PPE, but he is continuing to carry out research and development to improve functionality both from a hardware and software perspective, including new Covid specific workflows.

Join Dr Kanter and many other healthcare professionals at NHE365’s Infection Prevention & Decontamination event on 23 June. You can register for the event here.

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