Healthcare Professionals Need Protection In The Home

Opinion piece by:
Dr. Vickie Knight – PhD, MHScEd, BN, Clinical Services Executive, Rauland Australia

The need to protect nurses and physicians in home environments has accelerated as a direct result of disruptions caused by COVID 19, an increase in mental health issues and the push to keep elderly people living at home longer. More and more healthcare workers are calling for devices that can protect them in the home such as mobile duress. Duress needs to be mobile as workers may not be able to reach fixed alarms and responders don’t know where they are if they move. The concept of ‘hospital in the home’ or virtual care has gained traction and will only accelerate in future years.

Violence incidents are on the increase
Occupational violence against healthcare workers is a global problem with a systematic review conducted by researchers Liu et al showing a whopping 61.9 per cent of workers reporting exposure to occupational violence. The same researchers also found that healthcare professionals are more vulnerable to occupational violence than people employed in other occupations1.

Further they found that compared to European countries, Australasia and North America had higher rates of violence committed by patients in the workplace but suggested this difference may be related to under reporting in European countries.
The same researchers also found incidents of physical violence were highest in mental health and emergency department settings and in nurses and doctors, those working in urban settings and clinical staff working longer hours1.

Technological advances
Throughout history pandemics have driven rapid changes in health care and COVID-19 is no different. Since COVID 19, health has been innovating. New triaging models, open-air consultations, online assessment tools, smartphone symptom-checkers, observation management at home such as antenatal and external cardiac monitoring have been implemented. Mobile duress is the next frontier to dramatically change the working conditions for health professionals working in the home.

Mobile duress can save lives
Hospitals are increasingly turning to mobile duress as a way of increasing protection for healthcare workers in the home. Rauland Australia has begun deploying an innovative smartphone personal duress app in hospitals with preliminary results looking very positive. Mobile duress allows for room level accuracy and tracking of the healthcare worker if they are on the move. Mobile duress uses GPS tracking in the community to pinpoint the location of the device and therefore the healthcare worker. It also has a fall alert so that if a worker falls a duress alarm is automatically triggered after 15 seconds. The app also reassures the professional that the alarm has been sent and a response team alerted.

Technology improves efficiencies
Hospitals are increasingly seeking innovative technology solutions to create greater efficiencies when healthcare workers are in a home environment. ‘Hospital in the home’ is growing as a direct result of three society changes. Mental health issues are rising, older people are now kept in the home longer and COVID 19 has driven the need to keep patients out of hospitals to minimise transmission cases. Technology is the answer to greatly improve efficiencies between the hospital and homecare workers. Early adopters are set to reap significant returns and most importantly keep staff safe.

1 Liu J, et al. Occup Environ Med 2019;76:927–937. doi:10.1136/oemed-2019-105849

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