Professional Comment

Managing Vital Communications: Mass Notification Systems In Healthcare Settings

Chris Thomas, Infrastructure Manager at Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, shares insights into why and how to adopt mass notification systems in your care settings.

With communication being such a pivotal part of delivering the best outcomes for patients, it’s clear that driving effective communication is one of the most important pieces to the NHS’s organisational puzzle.

At Mid Cheshire, one of the core challenges was establishing a system through which IT could quickly and easily alert all staff regardless of whether they are in front of a device and regularly looking at emails and messages. Clinicians and other staff who are not desk-based often find it difficult to closely monitor their emails, as at best they only intermittently have time to sit in front of a computer. This means that important messages can be missed. The advantage of mass notifications systems is that these messages are displayed on a wide range of devices, even those that are locked or include digital signage – bringing them immediately to the attention of the intended recipient.

By introducing a mass notification system, in addition to our standard communication channels, we can communicate efficiently with staff about network maintenance, system maintenance, critical infrastructure updates, IT system failures and emergency planning. This system has helped to reduce the impact to the IT Service Desk by not overwhelming them with calls and tickets raised by staff discovering problems during a maintenance window, or problems we are already aware of. Instead, as a team we can focus on resolving outages as quickly as possible.

Mass notification systems also offer advantages in terms of supporting emergency and lockdown procedures, with some even offering pre-set “emergency response” alerts triggered by a hot-key combination to facilitate their use in time-sensitive situations. Routine alerts – such as fire drills – can be automatically scheduled in advance. Additionally, in situations where a mass response is required from staff – such as major trauma – staff can be notified instantaneously, giving staff as much precious time as possible to prepare. Mass notifications can also support forward planning for staff, giving them advance notice of system outages and technical upgrades.

As with adopting any amendments to protocol, bringing staff along with you is crucial to ensuring a smooth implementation. It’s likely that there will be an appetite amongst your colleagues for adopting such a system; at Mid Cheshire, colleagues were extremely receptive and co-operative due to the evident need to improve communication delivery.

Having a clear chain of prioritisation of messages additionally will allow the system to work most efficiently. Allowing too many people to access the system or issuing messages too regularly dilutes its effectiveness, as the service should be reserved for critical messaging. An overload of messages is likely to result in people not taking notice in the messages themselves, rendering the service less effective.

Mass notification systems, available in many forms, are a readily available tool to help you create clear lines of communication in a care setting. By streamlining the transmission of key messages, you can alleviate pressures on your colleagues at all levels, ultimately allowing you to deliver the best care outcomes to clients and patients.