Change is disrupting nurse calls. After decades of slow incremental change, the pace of change is quickening. These changes impact provider organizations and manufacturers as nurse call is integrated with adjacent market point of care solutions and new technologies. The benefits will be substantial: improved HCAHPS scores, improved patient safety, shorter length of stay, and greater staff productivity. Lagging providers and manufacturers will miss out on the benefits of these new capabilities. Let’s look at the recent past of the nurse call market and where we might be going in 2019 and beyond.
In this post, we’ll look at structural elements of the market that are disrupting nurse calls and why, and delve into examples of these changes. We’ll close with a bit of analysis and prognosticate what might be coming next.
BARRIERS TO CHANGE
Let’s start with factors that have fostered the relative stability enjoyed by nurse call vendors for about the past 50 years — the original hospital “sound and communications systems” were founded in the 1960s and 1970s.
Any new entrants to the nurse call business must overcome a regulatory barrier. In 1977, nurse call manufacturers and the Underwriters Laboratories got together and created the UL1069 standard for Hospital Signaling and Nurse Call Equipment. Not long after, states started to require every hospital patient room to include a UL1069 certified nurse call system in order to be licensed.
The mandating of UL1069 by local building codes or state licensure had a number of effects. First, this shut out electrical contractors who might design custom low voltage sound and communication systems to compete with nurse call vendors. The UL1069 standard represents a regulatory hurdle for any new nurse call system or vendor. Because the standard assumes certain features and characteristics typical of a nurse call system from the late 1970s, systems designed with new technologies may not fit neatly with UL1069 requirements. UL1069 may require vendors to change new product designs to conform to the standard’s mandated approach that all the other vendors use, limiting innovation and potential sustainable competitive advantages and benefits for customers.