Notification platform helps hospitals staff during key times
In a hospital environment, every day is different—sometimes dramatically so—which means that staffing needs can vary greatly from one day to the next. This creates quite a challenge for hospital administrators, according to Abbas Haider Ali, chief technical officer for San Ramon, Calif.-based xMatters, whose Healthcare Engine was created to meet this challenge.
“They have to have a certain balance of skill sets in a hospital in order to leave certain wings open,” Ali said. “In an emergency room, for example, there are nurses who carry certain certifications, and if you’re missing those, you can’t operate at full capacity. While they physically may have 50 beds, they might only be able to operate 30, because they’re understaffed.”
Within the platform, each clinician—those who work for the hospital and those who work for third-party providers—has a profile that details individual certifications and how each can be contacted when off duty. When clinicians enter the facility, they swipe their RFID badge, which creates a record of who physically is in the building. When the need arises to fill a certification gap, the Healthcare Engine platform reaches out to everyone who is off duty, asking whether they can respond and whether they can arrive within a certain timeframe.
“The time varies based on the urgency of the issue,” Ali said. “If it’s a run-of-the-mill day and they’re short-staffed for an hour or two, that’s okay. But if there’s a major issue or something really of out the ordinary—such as a natural disaster or a major traffic accident—the urgency rises, as does the type of people that they need to step in. They may need more triage nurses, for example, versus someone who is in a supporting role on a regular floor of the hospital.”
Generally, hospitals take respondents on a first-come, first-served basis. While the platform can be configured to conduct searches based on secondary match criteria—for example, years of experience—to ensure that the best-qualified personnel are brought in for every incident, Ali said that doesn’t happen often.
“Someone who has a certain certification and has been doing it for 20 years is, you would hope, better experienced than someone who just got their certification last week,” he said. “But the reality is that we don’t see a lot of secondary match criteria being used. I think it’s largely because people are happy just to get those skill sets filled; they haven’t thought about prioritizing.”
The platform also is being used in a couple of pilot projects designed to improve patient care, according to Ali. It contacts patients to remind them of certain tasks that they need to perform as part of their treatment regimen—for example, a diabetic might be asked whether he is performing his blood-glucose measurements and taking his medications. If not, the system automatically contacts someone who has influence on the patient—a relative or friend, perhaps—to alert them of the situation and ask them to intercede.
A companion platform, dubbed Retail Engine, is being used to leverage data collected via preferred-customer programs to not only get customers to perform certain actions, but to perform them when the retailer prefers.
“We’re mining this data to determine buying patterns,” Ali said. “For instance, they might realize that a certain customer comes in every other Friday to buy [a particular brand of cereal]. But Wednesday might be a slow day, so they might push out an offer to the customer that saves him 50 cents if he comes in [that day]. … This lets retailers control the ups and downs of their revenue by redirecting things where they need them.”
Ali said that retailers’ loyalty programs are becoming “scary smart,” which is enhancing the platform’s ability to perform this sort of outreach—perhaps too smart. He told an anecdote that involved a major retailer contacting a family to congratulate them on a pending blessed event.
“The system figured out that the teenage daughter was having a baby based on her purchases, but she hadn’t told her family,” Ali said. “That triggered a discussion for a short window of time as to whether these loyalty tracking systems are becoming too smart for their own good. This was completely automated—it just figured out this girl was pregnant and sent something to her house.
“The dad was like, ‘I don’t understand who you think is pregnant here,’ but apparently the daughter was.”