Nurse call improves clinical workflow and betters patient care.

When Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare (Elmhurst, IL) began planning for our 886,000-square-foot new main campus, the nurse call selection committee was a multidisciplinary internal team that included IT and nursing representatives. A top priority for the new system was to meet caregivers’ needs and leverage the technical infrastructure to deliver the best experience for the patient.

IT was involved to support caregivers and make sure the nurse call business decision was sound from a technology perspective. We also wanted to verify that the nursing staff was comfortable with the technology and could understand how to leverage the nurse call system.

Our old system provided no good reporting or management information and had staff basically “chasing lights.” Looking forward, we wanted nurse call that would integrate into existing systems, including the Cisco WiFi telephones and the electronic medical record (EMR).

A priority was a nurse call system that could serve as our primary, common-path alerting and messaging platform. The new system had to be robust enough to leverage the information in the system to manage events, alarms, messages, bed exits, patient monitor alarms and all other activities central to workflow management. We also wanted to minimize the number of systems used to accomplish these tasks.

Keeping the complexity of the nurse call integration with one vendor, in just one environment, was also important. When looking at Critical Alert Systems' CommonPath solution, we were impressed that they eliminated the need for third-party middleware, which makes management of the entire system easier.

The CommonPath Centralized call-answering approach, and the technologies to support it, were also impressive. Our nurse call selection committee chose Critical Alert Systems after seeing their CommonPath Centralized system operating in a hospital site visit.

Our IT team worked closely with nursing staff and Critical Alert Systems to configure the system to meet our caregivers’ needs. A principal factor was the configurability of the CommonPath nurse call rules and workflows engine that expedites the fulfillment of patient requests. In fact, working through that process set the tone for how caregivers would operate in the new facility.

It was important for us to walk through the assignment of alerts and escalations with nursing so we could configure a nurse call system that would adapt to the requirements of the new facility. What we didn’t realize until later was that this process really spearheaded much of the documentation on how we were going to operate in the new main campus.

A primary focus was the integration with Meditech using HL7. Once the selected data was determined and the data mapping was completed, this integration was easily accomplished. The ability of nurse call to leverage Cisco wireless phones was another key IT consideration. The CommonPath messaging, shift assigner and escalation engines made delivery of the right message to the right staff seamless.

Clinical workflow management was streamlined and improved, because the CommonPath system allows care providers to do staff assignments offline and then activate, without needing to access a separate system. This helps ensure that alarms are answered in a timely fashion and that staffing and workflow specifications align with shift changes and other variables.

We also wanted a system that would be easier to troubleshoot on a room-by-room basis, and we liked the fact that the CommonPath system used standard CAT5/CAT6 home-run wiring to meet this requirement.

Working with the CommonPath software and system since the June 25, 2011, move to our new hospital has delivered on the goals to leverage information, to improve clinical workflow and to converge communication platforms. The new nurse call system has provided the information needed to meet clinical and patient expectations and to provide accountability. Our Patient Care Services has reported a marked increase in patient satisfaction since launching the new system.

The nimble, scalable nature of the CommonPath design has made a real impact in how IT is able to help our nursing staff leverage the system. The fact that CommonPath is software based was not a major consideration for us in the selection process. Now that it’s been implemented, however, we’re seeing firsthand how easy and quick it can be to develop new applications and integrations. The ability to easily make these kinds of changes means we’re going to get more value out of this purchase as time goes on.

About the author

Matt Sterling is a director of Information Services at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital. For more information about EMH, go to For more on Critical Alert Systems, go to