Clinicians using Hypercare to replace pagers and improve scheduling
March 29, 2021
Clinicians at the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance in southwestern Ontario are surrendering their pagers in favour of a smartphone and web-based messaging and scheduling solution from Toronto-based Hypercare Inc.
“Pagers are old technology and aren’t being fully supported anymore,” said Dr. Tom Haffner, an internal medicine specialist and physician champion for the Hypercare project. “We were running into issues with reception and missing pages frequently because of dead zones in the hospital. Medicine is probably one of the last vestiges of pager use, so it was really out of necessity that we began looking for a new solution.”
Established in 2003, the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance includes the Stratford General Hospital, Clinton Public Hospital, Seaforth Community Hospital and St. Marys Memorial Hospital.
Huron Perth acquired the Hypercare app in the spring of 2020 and rolled it out as a pilot project to the Internal Medicine group, the ICU and the telemetry stroke unit in Stratford. In November, it was rolled out to the rest of the hospital, including nursing units, pharmacists and allied healthcare professionals. One month later, it was made available to the three community hospitals.
Hypercare is a HIPAA and PHIPA-compliant solution designed to meet the distinct needs of clinicians in the healthcare environment, while still providing the ease of use that is similar to commonly used messaging apps in use by the general public.
It also addresses several shortcomings associated with pager use. For example, “it was not infrequent at all that a page would fail to send and the nurse wouldn’t know that we didn’t receive it,” said Dr. Haffner. Additionally, there’s no way with a pager to tell if you need to return a page right away because it’s an emergency or if you can wait 10 or 20 minutes because it’s just a simple question.”
Hypercare has an urgent alert function that allows users to prioritize emergency messages and overrides smartphone silent and do not disturb settings.
“Another thing the staff like is that there’s an indicator that tells you the physician or the person you’re communicating with has seen your message,” said Brenda Murray, an applications analyst and project manager for the rollout. “That’s a great feature for nurses because they know the physician has seen the message and that he or she is going to get back to you.”
Hypercare also accommodates consult messages. For example, nurses can select a simple, one sentence message requesting a call back.
“Physicians don’t want to see a whole textbook on what’s happening with a patient. That’s communicated verbally when the physician returns the call,” said Murray.
Like other messaging apps, Hypercare users are able to include clinical images, videos, and documents with their messages, but Huron Perth is taking it one step at a time.
“We’re not using the image feature yet,” said Dr. Robert Davis, Huron Perth IT physician lead. “We decided to get as many physicians on board and comfortable using the app first, but this is a great feature to have if you’re in a wound clinic and the physician isn’t there at the time. Once we get the physicians and staff using Hypercare comfortably, that’s our next step.”
Huron Perth is looking forward to a full rollout of Hypercare’s scheduling functionality once more physicians make the transition.
“At this time, we have not made it mandatory for physicians to sign up for Hypercare,” noted Dr. Haffner. “We are encouraging them to do so. You have to show them the benefits of the application and have them come along rather than tell them what they have to do, but that’s not to say that at some point we won’t ask everyone to sign up.”
Resistance to change, added Dr. Davis “is best addressed by having one’s peers say they like it and spreading that kind of positivity.”
As of mid-February, the Hypercare scheduling functionality was being used by the internal medicine and pediatrics groups.
“Instead of calling the switchboard to see who’s on call for pediatrics, for example, you can just check Hypercare on your smartphone,” said Murray.
Currently, “physician admins and others responsible for paper-based scheduling have to fax out 20 different schedules to different places and if there’s a change, they have to do it all over again,” noted Annette Stelmachuk, RN clinical analyst. “With Hypercare, they can log on, make a change and it’s available instantly to everyone.”
Physicians can also make use of Hypercare’s scheduling marketplace, said Ismail Moola, Hypercare’s director of business development. “If I have a shift that I want to trade with a team member or give away, I can post it to the department using the marketplace function and someone else can pick it up. All of the changes in the Hypercare scheduling platform are updated in real-time.”
As a cloud-based solution independent of the hospital’s existing communication systems, Hypercare isn’t necessarily restricted to hospital staff. Community healthcare organizations and general practitioners affiliated with the Huron Perth and Area Ontario Health Team could also sign up and connect with hospital staff and each other. Currently, one of their OHT partners, ONE CARE Home and Community Support Services, is undergoing a pilot with Hypercare as well.
Hypercare notes that it is able to customize the solution to address the specific needs of its customers. At Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital, for example, it developed a messaging application to contact the cath lab team in response to Code STEMI activations. “A high priority message is sent out through Hypercare to the appropriate people based on the on-call schedule,” said Ismail Moola. At Michael Garron Hospital – formerly Toronto East General – an integration with the hospital’s EMR alerts the most responsible physician and the infection control team through Hypercare when a patient tests positive for COVID-19 and when their blood oxygen level drops below a certain threshold. This informs the team that their patient needs an urgent assessment.