Handling Healthcare Worker Duress with Real Time Location Technology

14 August 2020

Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare sector. As compared to other healthcare workers, nurses spend the most bedside time with patients, hence putting them at risk of staff duress. Although danger is not what one associates with places of healing, nurses walk into the rooms of patients experiencing mental distress or interact with aggressive visitors. According to OSHA, healthcare workers face significantly higher cases of assault and duress compared to staff in other industries. The American Nurses Association indicates that one out of four nurses report being attacked or physically assaulted while on the job. Even though attacks on nurses are not a daily occurrence, when they do occur, they can be sudden and sometimes fatal.


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The Importance and Magnitude Of Staff Duress

The American Bureau of Labor Statistics considers health care workers to be nearly four times more likely to be assaulted compared to all other workers in the private sector combined. The vast majority of these attacks come from patients and visitors as opposed to assaults from fellow employees. Other statistics in health care staff duress show that pushing, grabbing, and yelling are the most prevalent types of violence reported in patient rooms. The violent attacks mainly happen when the nurses were restraining patients, triaging patients, or performing invasive procedures.

As reliable as security guards can be, it is impossible for them to detect and immediately respond to staff duress cases in every room. Often, there is not much time between the start of the problem and a full-scale assault; hence the need for a real-time location solution that alerts concerned parties the moment a situation gets out of control. Healthcare facilities can leverage the advances in real-time location tracking technology using wireless devices to create safe working environments and reduce cases of staff duress. RTLS duress is a reliable wireless solution that provides immediate response to concerned parties during a threatening security emergency.

How RTLS Technology Works

Healthcare RTLS Solutions use wireless technology to enable an immediate response during a security emergency by instantly locating the exact location of the employee under duress. The technology adopts wireless devices that include RFID tags, stationary panic buttons, fixed location pull-cord units, and BLE beacons, which process events by activating customizable notifications through visual and audible alarms and alerts, which are pushed to a central command system or wireless mobile device. Nurses can have wearable wireless devices and badges that can be activated in different ways in the event of a threatening situation.

  • Button Press

The most basic badge solution is a simple button press badge or panic button that healthcare staff can press once they feel threatened. If a worker notices the possibility of an attack by a patient or visitor, they can press the button, which sends an audible or inaudible notification indicating their exact location and a timestamp. The hospital personnel within the central command system will receive the notification, prompting them to act immediately and deliver real-time assistance to the staff.
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  • Pull Away

Healthcare facilities can have pull cord units and badges that are tethered to accessories or watches, which can be pulled away to activate an alarm signal from interconnected devices or in the central command system. Pull-away devices are preferred in cases where a wearable device is involuntarily pulled away from the caregiver by the aggressor or in the event of a physical limitation that prevents the employee from reaching the panic button.

  • Fall Detection

More advanced technology using IoT devices is available and requires less active involvement by the healthcare staff. These devices are deployed on wearable wristbands or connected to mobile devices within the room to aid in detecting when a staff member changes position horizontally or vertically. In the event of an attack where the nurse changes their position, the device sends a signal alert for help.

Location Technology Variations

Suppliers of IoT technologies have developed numerous solutions to meet individual needs for healthcare facilities. While deploying these technologies, healthcare facilities should consider whether they require radio frequency-based technologies or certainty-based hybrids. Single technology radio frequency variations (RFID) produce signals that  penetrate through ceilings and walls, making them ideal for deployment in smaller clinical zones. In health facilities where patients are in large rooms, certainty–based hybrid RTLS are ideal. In duress cases, every second counts, making it important for hospitals to deploy a reliable solution that provides real-time information.

Kontakt.io deploys Bluetooth beacons, which are inexpensive radio transmitters that are placed in clinical zones such as patient rooms and send out a radio pulse vibration or LED signal a few times per second. When deployed in a room, the panic button can detect the closest beacon and encode that information in its location report. Due to the increased use of alarm systems in hospitals, it is likely that alarms will go unanswered and employees may suffer serious injuries. This is clearly an area where Bluetooth beacons and improve outcomes.

Trying to determine the best-fit options for a healthcare system RTLS technology deployment can be overwhelming. It is further complicated by the customization of out-of-the-box tools, which are only tailored for individual organizations. At the same time, cost is a limiting determinant, necessitating healthcare managers look for shortcuts to more affordable solutions. Employee safety is critical and having an unreliable solution could prove dangerous as not having a solution at all. The two essential features healthcare leaders should consider when evaluating location technology solutions include the ability to detect a user's exact location and response time. Technologically advanced solutions using shared connections help to prioritize duress alerts over other network activities and provide real-time assistance to the healthcare worker who requested help.

How is RTLS different?

  • During threatening emergencies, security staff can locate the precise location of an employee under duress.
  • Employees have the peace of mind of knowing they are always protected through a simple button-press or pull cord.
  • Patients remain unaware of staff duress solutions. When a violent patient attacks a nurse, sending a panic alert can escalate the situation if the patient learns about a security solution.

Benefits of RTLS in Enhancing Staff Safety

Improving staff safety delivers numerous benefits to hospitals apart from reducing injuries. Properly managed security plans and protocols can reduce costs, improve service delivery, and protect the reputation of healthcare organizations.

  • Safe Family of Colleagues

Although safety mishaps from staff duress result in injuries and temporary illnesses, some incidents can become lethal. A trip and fall can cause permanent and painful disabilities among healthcare providers. In the case of improper sharp instrument protocols, needle sticks can result in fatal illnesses. Since staff duress is easily manageable with RTLS technology, hospitals can promote staff satisfaction and enhance patient service delivery.

  • Lower Workers Compensation Claims

Hospitals are required by the law to self-insure to manage the full cost of workers' compensation claims when employees are injured on the job. According to AON, the severity of workers' compensation claims, including medical, indemnity, and expense costs, has been increasing gradually with claims avenging a total of $15, 860 annually. By deploying location-tracking technology, the vast majority of injuries will be reduced, thus saving hospitals on worker's compensation costs.

  • Improved Patient Outcomes

When assured of a safe working environment, healthcare employees tend to deliver higher-quality services to patients. Hospitals with an adequate staffing capacity are able to improve patient safety outcomes since nurses will be dedicated to delivering quality care as opposed to worrying about their safety when dealing with mentally distressed and frustrated patients. Hospitals with higher cases of employee injuries report higher turnover rates, which negatively impacts on patient outcomes.

  • Improved Hospital Reputation and Patient Safety

The safety of your healthcare employees is directly tied to the credibility of your healthcare institution. A hospital with increased staff duress cases is likely to have a bad reputation, especially among healthcare workers, which can impact the reputation of the hospital. Deploying RTLS technology ensures that such cases are minimized as security staff and management teams get real-time information that can be used to mitigate staff duress cases.

Empower Healthcare Staff with RTLS Technology

Empowering employees with real-time security responses creates invaluable peace of mind for employees, allowing them to better focus on patient care. RTLS helps to reduce duress cases by mitigating risks before they occur. Unlike less-advanced security measures, location technology amasses real-time data that can be used to support security measures through reporting and analysis. Sign up to our webinar, where we will talk about smart hospitals and how IoT-based systems are providing real-time data in order to achieve interoperability in your healthcare institution, boost ROI drive, save search times, and enhance patient-first attitudes.

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Aneta Ciurkot

Product Marketing & Partnership Manager

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    [Updated for 2020]
    [Updated for 2020]