Redistributing the Wealth: Vocera, Politics, and Giving Badges to the People Who Really Want Them

Posted by: Kenny Schiff on May 8, 2008

Like a lot of things in life, at hospitals, who ends up with what technology is not always fair. More often than not there are those who don’t get what they need, even when others don’t use what they have.

Today’s post is the first in a series about two customers who chose to take Vocera away from the “haves,” and give it instead to the “have nots” who really needed it.

Here’s the back story: Like many hospitals, one of our long-standing customers deployed Vocera in three separate phases, each time trying to balance the amount of money they had to spend with the impact the Vocera devices would make on the user groups involved. This particular customer is a 200-bed community hospital, and while they are not afraid to spend money for qualitative or business efficiency reasons, stretching their dollars to get the best results is very important.

Their VP of Support Services, who has presided over their deployments from the beginning, reminded me recently that early on management made the decision to never force anyone to use Vocera. And with people lining up at his door asking for Vocera (and having limited amounts of money to spend on new devices or licenses), he is not afraid to shake things up to ensure their investment will have the most impact.

For Phase III of the project, the customer rolled out Vocera to the hospital’s Med/Surg units. This spring, a year after that deployment, they made the decision to pull the devices back from the users who were only sporadically using the system.

By all accounts the Phase III initiative had marginal results. That’s in large part because Vocera didn’t mesh well with how those floors took care of business.

Add in the fact that their wireless infrastructure is a bit spotty in places (and no dollars to really improve that significantly), and you can begin to see where this is going. You have a user group that is not especially inclined to use instant communications (read, “they don’t want to be found”), who have a litany of excuses for not using the system (“my calls sometimes drop”).

So on May 1st, a group of devices that had previously been in the hands of Med/Surg were moved over to the previous “have nots” in Maternal Child Health (Maternity, Labor & Delivery, and Pediatrics). The good news? Immediate happy campers, and, better yet, immediate positive business impact, as evidenced by this email we received:

“I returned today to see that all my staff were wearing their Voceras. My Nursery RN told me she was thrilled because on the weekend there was an emergency and they were called via Vocera and quickly responded to the call saving time and, of course, the baby.”

Of course this doesn’t just apply to Vocera. The hospital technology landscape is littered with lots of useful applications that are collecting dust. And as this simple story shows, reallocation can have an immediate impact.

Watch this space for the second part of this series, which tells how another hospital’s Anesthesiology Vocera badges are now being used by its Maternal Child Health department.

Kenny Schiff ( is founder and President of TPC Healthcare, a specialty provider of wireless communications, alarm messaging/workflow products, and services to healthcare customers.

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