Kristy Husen, Director
CentraCare Health Home Care & Hospice
As violence in today’s world continues to grow, so should the safeguards we offer to the staff working in this unpredictable setting. The environment is rapidly changing for home health and hospice workers, and healthcare workers in general. It feels as though implementing strategies to keep both patients and staff safer are occurring more and more often...and here at CentraCare Health, we decided that we needed more tools in our toolbox.
This past February, we leveraged some new technology and implemented a new safety feature right through our smart phones. The program we use includes an online portal that connects to staff via an app on each employee’s smart phone. Here is how it works:
- Employees sign up online. They enter their phone number, a brief physical description of themselves and their vehicle (whatever information they are comfortable sharing, knowing that more is better if there is a true emergency). They also enter the name and mobile phone number of their supervisor. This is one-time process; however, the information can be updated at any time.
- Employees download an application on their phone. From within the app, they can start a “monitoring session.” A monitoring session isn’t necessarily what you think – it certainly doesn’t mean Big Brother is watching and listening in! It means that their device is on the radar of someone in a call center. Ultimately they can decide when they want to use this, but we created a policy outlining risky times that they are required to use it (i.e. visits made between dusk and dawn, when making a visit to a home unknown to the individual). When the employee starts a session, they plug a small yellow tether cord into the headphone jack of their phone. If they sense danger or violence or need help, they simply remove the tether cord, which does 2 important things:
o An alarm sounds right from the phone (dependent on the volume settings of the device). This is a way to deter someone from going through with whatever violent act they may be in the process of committing or thinking about.
o The call center is notified and, in turn, they notify the local authorities based on the location of the device. They give law enforcement details of the person making the call and other pertinent information. There is no opening or unlocking the phone needed and no dialing 911...simply pull the cord and help is on the way.
Don’t worry – there is a way to signal “false alarm” if the cord is pulled inadvertently – and it HAS happened.
If an employee activates the alarm and authorities are dispatched, the supervisor and one other main contact for the group are notified immediately via phone and/or text. The online portal also gives managers additional capabilities, like being able to view past monitoring sessions (both who is initiating them and their location).
For the most part, our patients are not creating the violence. Sometimes it’s family members, friends of family, or even just the neighborhood. Our staff really feel comforted knowing they have this option when they are called out to a home in the middle of the night. Or when they are doing a late visit in a dark neighborhood and must walk a block just to get to the patient’s home. The best part is that their colleagues, managers and family members love it too!
There are several companies/programs that offer this technology...we may see some at the Annual Meeting in May!