Medical technology has advanced rapidly in recent decades, and hospitals have invested billions to stay on the cutting edge of healthcare. Yet, when it comes to hospital communications and collaboration, many healthcare organizations still rely on pagers, fax machines and desktop computers.

As COVID-19 placed enormous operational pressures on hospitals throughout 2020 and early 2021, the inflexibility of these legacy communications tools was starkly exposed. Legacy communications technology causes nurses to waste precious time paging physicians, waiting for them to return calls, tracking down available computers with electronic health records (EHR) access, checking again and again for lab results to appear in the system and responding to nurse call pages that often don’t require nurse-level care.

These communication gaps and workflow inefficiencies frustrate hospital staff and impact patient care, satisfaction and safety. To address these common healthcare challenges, forward-thinking healthcare leaders are modernizing hospital communications with smartphone-based clinical communications.

According to Spyglass Consulting:

  • 90 percent of hospitals are investing in smartphones and secure mobile communications platforms

  • 73 percent have developed (or are developing) mobile strategies for clinical communications

  • 68 percent are using middleware to collect, monitor and manage data, alerts and alarms generated from hospital legacy systems

How does a hospital plan and launch a successful smartphone deployment?

Step 1: Commit to hospital-issued devices

Bring your own device (BYOD) can present challenges for any business, but this is especially true for healthcare. Unsecured devices and apps can compromise information security, while patient data on staff’s personal phones can result in hefty HIPAA fines. Hospital-owned smartphones can be more easily configured, managed and secured by hospital IT (see Step 5).

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To protect your investment, critical care teams in particular can be equipped with rugged smartphones — which ensure fewer breaks, so essential staff are never slowed down by a dropped phone.

Just as importantly, IT can customize the phones to improve the user experience, prevent data breaches and boost the device’s overall performance. For IT to deliver mobile clinical communications solutions efficiently and effectively, they need platform consolidation and device standardization. By consolidating on one smartphone model, hospital IT can leverage developer-friendly integrations and device management and customization capabilities, like those available through Samsung Knox Suite.

Committing to hospital-owned devices doesn’t have to be expensive. Samsung offers a range of affordable but powerful unlocked phones — devices that work via Wi-Fi so that the hospital doesn’t have to pay for carrier connectivity.

Step 2: Take inventory of clinical requirements

Hospital management can’t use smartphone-based solutions to solve communication challenges and improve clinical workflows unless they fully understand those challenges and workflows. The best source for this information is the folks on the front lines.

Any successful implementation begins with feedback from care teams about their needs and problems. For the most comprehensive feedback, hospital management can form an interdisciplinary mobile innovation committee comprised of doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals. Their combined experience and perspectives can help administrators and IT leaders understand how to best map current workflows to clinical communications solutions.

When it comes to device selection, hospitals should also consider factors such as durability, cleanability, battery life and the need for a built-in barcode scanner.

Step 3: Plan to integrate mobile apps and legacy technology

Smartphones alone won’t streamline hospital communications and workflows. For maximum ROI, organizations also need a mobile-based clinical communications platform that enables secure multichannel conversations (talk, text, video) and can be integrated with other hospital technology.

For example, leading clinical communications platforms can be integrated with:

  • EHR
  • Nurse call systems
  • Bedside telemetry
  • Scheduling apps or spreadsheets
  • Hospital phone system
  • Legacy paging systems
  • Answering service and call center technology

Step 4: Boost your wireless infrastructure

Smartphone-based hospital communications requires fast, seamless Wi-Fi connectivity. Clinician devices need to work in every nook and cranny of the hospital. They also need to access apps and load medical images quickly, even while sharing bandwidth with other staff devices.

Large hospitals with Wi-Fi-enabled bedside telemetry units and monitoring equipment have probably already addressed potential Wi-Fi issues. Organizations that haven’t already modernized their Wi-Fi infrastructures should test for dead zones and capacity shortages before deploying smartphones.

By investing in wireless improvements now, hospitals can also prepare their networks to support the next generation of mobile and internet of things (IoT) devices. In addition to 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S21 includes support for Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless standard that allows for faster, more seamless connectivity, better supports multiple devices and can even help preserve battery life.

Step 5: Prepare to manage devices and applications

Whether hospitals provide smartphones or allow for BYOD, they need to have clear mobile security policies in place and conduct training to ensure employees fully understand it. Just as importantly, regardless of who owns the device, if it accesses and transmits patient information, it needs to be secured and managed by the hospital. IT also needs the ability to remotely wipe lost or stolen devices and remove hospital apps from devices owned by former employees.

Mobile device management (MDM) and enterprise mobile management (EMM) solutions enable hospitals to manage phones remotely, keep operating systems and apps up to date, approve or block specific apps, require the use of passwords/biometrics and remotely wipe any device when the need arises.

Samsung Galaxy smartphones are secured by the Knox platform — a multilayered, mobile security platform that’s built into the device. Hospitals can also leverage Knox Manage, a cloud-based EMM solution that enables IT to apply a variety of controls and protections across a fleet of mobile devices, ensuring HIPAA compliance. Knox Configure allows hospitals to customize their devices for hospital use, preloading key applications, disabling unneeded features and defining security settings. Lastly, Knox Platform for Enterprise (KPE) lets hospitals containerize and separate personal apps and data from those of the hospital.

Samsung also offers a broad portfolio of smartphones for hospital use, from the powerful Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G to the affordable Galaxy A series. The rugged Galaxy XCover Pro particularly suits hospital needs because of its combination of durability, a long-lasting replaceable battery and field-ready features, including programmable physical keys and a glove mode.

As part of Samsung’s mission to help hospitals improve clinical communications and patient care, Samsung has ensured that all Galaxy devices and Knox APIs are HIPAA-compliant. Samsung also works with leading clinical communications software providers to share best practices and provide seamless integrations for a successful smartphone deployment.

You can further modernize your hospital and improve security by switching to digital intake forms. When you’re ready for a deeper dive, learn more about modernizing hospital communications in this free white paper.

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Trevor Smith

Trevor is Head of Business Development for Samsung’s Healthcare Mobile B2B team, where he drives sales enablement for the Healthcare Vertical. He is inspired by innovation and creativity, and is pursued by the industry as a leader in Digital Health Solutions. He joined Samsung after a successful career in holding various Team Lead and Consulting roles in top technology companies as a leader in Healthcare, State and Local Government and Education. In seven years, he has positioned Samsung as a premier Mobile Solutions leader, achieving positive annual growth. He has worked closely with many of the largest healthcare systems in the west, providing mobile solutions and in turn solving extreme technology challenges. Trevor was the recipient of Samsung’s prominent “Kim London” award in 2019 for Top Solutions Professional. He is based in Colorado Springs, CO.

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