Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Future of Nurse Call

I grew up the daughter of an integrator – for those of you who don’t know what that is in the 1970s and 1980s an integrator was a person who made two hardware systems talk to each other.  The 1990s brought more integration via software and now the software controls the hardware and integration is becoming interfacing.   As with other “trades” my siblings and I were immersed in technology and projects from a young age.  While Dad did everything from sound to security, fire to paging, intercom to burglar – our specialty was always nurse call.

I believe an era is coming where there will be no nurse call as we know it.  The integrator will again be asked to shift their model as the hardware will become as simple as a light switch and the software will be interchangeable.  Kind of like a computer – they all run Microsoft Word.  

I had the opportunity to talk to Brian Yarnell, CEO of Starling Health.  Brian is one of the many “non-healthcare” folks to enter the space.  His background is in business intelligence for the retail industry.   His focus is creating a methodology to capture data to truly evaluate performance management by allowing patients the opportunity to direct their own care in any language they speak.  

Starling has developed a “Ap” (for lack of better terms because it runs on any tablet OS) that not only allows the patient to “have it their way” but allows the hospital to capture data about specific performance improvement.   With the simple touch of an icon the patient can request a number of items and the workflow can be transitionally tracked in the database.  Did I mention that it can automatically change to any language.  It’s a really patient centric tool for patient request.

For most standard nurse call systems decentralized modeling is a challenge (mostly because few hospitals look at the request quantities prior to design and implementation) so many hospitals have started to look at the war room model to better triage the need of the patient.   While it’s clearly not a “nurse call” product - it would not, by itself meet, most regulatory standards.  However, today with simple integration (the old school way) it could compliment a UL1069 listed system – making an inexpensive featureless system very feature rich.   There is even greater opportunity in the future through interfacing with a higher quality more software centric platform to really create amazing workflow.

Starling is certainly the most interesting product I have seen in a long time.  Brian’s vision will allow patient the opportunity to direct their own care in any language they speak.    Check out their website

The revolution of the IP based nurse call was challenging to many integration firms and another shift is on the horizon.   It used to be the major argument was who “owned” the assignment process - now it’s who is the “hub” – what if there were no “hub”.   Systems with strategies of open infrastructure – well written API will be the winner in the battle – those who don’t want to leave the old school proprietary mindset will be left behind.   You have to be flexible to integrate to innovation and accept the fact that your company may not be able to innovate everything.


  1. Courtney, I find myself in very close agreement with you on many points. Sans these three; the lethargy built into Human decision and reluctance to change processes mostly due to fear and a lack of desire for due diligence, the effect this truth has on manufactures arrogance and lethargy are bolstered due to the above, and finally because we see this and know it to be true it is a logical that UL 1069 is ingrained into the legislative process as well.
    Someday products may become very agnostic only if it is demanded by those with the power to influence purchases. Technology itself is becoming more open, more efficient, and flexible. In the time it takes for a feature set to become required in most organizations the technology that enable that feature set is very dated in IT terms. It’s just unconceivable that IT Managers are willing to standardize on systems with operating systems that are no longer available on a home PC.
    Once the cycle is broken, many will be driven out of the business because the margins that they are currently getting are only available when my three points are the dominant mind set. I see a return to people asking why that is so much and not being satisfied with the best looking orators answer. Until then all I can do is be a catalyst for change while hoping people will take the time to check out a product that is perfect for the sake of this argument

  2. Let's hope you are right! And, the change couldn't come soon enough from our perspective. We are one of those arrogant manufacturers the commenter above mentions. However, our slowness to to embrace these changes is less about lethargy on our part, and more about the hesitance of our users to share data. Indeed, it is my prediction that once family members of senior living / nursing home / hospital residents begin demanding real-time access to nurse call information, the radical change about which you speak will get underway. At the moment, it is disadvantageous to share data from a risk perspective. Do we need tort reform, or what?

    As to the hardware and infrastructure...we are also looking forward to the day when there is no "hub."

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject. I wish more people did.


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Kourtney Govro