Effective communication is critical to creating frictionless healthcare experiences for patients, families and care teams. A single gap in the chain can impact patient care and safety as well as well-being of nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers.
Improving the lives of patients, families and care team members by simplifying clinical workflows, reducing cognitive overload, and increasing safety is the mission of Vocera Communications Inc.
Vocera was founded in 2000 by three entrepreneurs and co-workers looking for a better way to connect and collaborate. What they did forever changed the way people communicate in hospitals and other mission-critical environments. In 2002, the company shipped the first hands-free, voice-controlled Vocera Badge. At the time, yelling down hospital halls, loud overhead paging, and call-and-wait systems with landline phones were the most common modes of care team communication. The Badge made it much easier, faster and quieter to communicate.
Vocera has been leading the way in voice technology for more than 20 years, striving to simplify workflows and improve the day-to-day lives of our customers and the people they serve. Some of the technologies the company originally embraced, like wireless and speech recognition, are now becoming mainstream. Over the last 20 years, the use of speech recognition has evolved tremendously. People’s willingness to use speech as a user interface has become much more common with technology like Alexa and Siri, but long before these voice assistants, the Vocera Genie enabled mobile workers to connect hands-free to the right person or group with simple voice commands.
By the time the one millionth Badge was shipped in 2018, more than 1,400 hospitals and health systems around the world had selected Vocera technologies for care teams to securely text using the company’s smartphone app, make calls with the wearable Badge, and engage patients and families with its care experience solutions. Like its product portfolio, the employee count at Vocera has also grown, with more than 600 employees across the globe in offices located in the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, the Middle East and the United Kingdom.
More than 2,100 facilities around the world, including nearly 1,700 hospitals and healthcare facilities, have selected Vocera solutions to enable team members to communicate and collaborate.
In January 2019, Vocera changed mobile communication again with the introduction of the VoceraSmartbadge, a new category of wearable device that combines smartphone usability with unique hands-free voice capabilities. Based on two decades of customer feedback, the award-winning Smartbadge was purpose-built for healthcare. The intuitive mobile device helps improve clinician agility, simplify workflows, reduce interruption fatigue, mitigate cognitive overload, and elevate patient care, safety and experience. Designed with care team well-being in mind, the dedicated panic button on the device gives staff members the ability to get help fast with a simple touch of button.
Also in 2019, the company launched Vocera Vina, a revolutionary new smartphone application. The customizable communication app presents prioritized patient-centric calls, secure messages, and alerts in a unified inbox, and provides an intuitive user experience for clinicians inside and outside the hospital.
More than 2,100 facilities around the world, including nearly 1,700 hospitals and healthcare facilities, have selected Vocera solutions to enable team members to communicate and collaborate. In addition to healthcare, Vocera is at home in luxury hotels, aged care facilities, retail stores, schools, power facilities, libraries, and more. Vocera solutions make mobile workers safer and more effective by enabling them to connect instantly with other people and access resources or information quickly.
Next Standard of PPE
Celebrating 20 years of innovation was among the plans for Vocera and its employees in 2020, but ideas of celebration quickly faded as the company, country and the world focused all efforts on responding to and fighting COVID-19.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare workers faced a number of challenges that caused stress, fatigue, cognitive burden, and burnout. Adding to the many occupational risks and stressors was not having enough personal protective equipment (PPE). Every time clinicians put on or take off PPE, there is a chance of contamination. Here is where hands-free, voice-controlled communication is so valuable.
Clinicians can wear the Vocera Badge or Vocera Smartbadge under their PPE and communicate hands-free without leaving the patient’s bedside. Whether working in a triage tent, the ICU, or an isolation room inside or outside the hospital, care teams members can connect quickly with simple voice commands, while minimizing risk of contamination and preserving valuable PPE.
Additionally, the Vocera software platform has been critical for enabling care teams to collaborate by voice, text and intelligent alerting to triage patients quickly and safely. The platform integrates with more than 150 clinical and operational systems, including EHRs, patient monitors, ventilators and more, to enable just-in time communication and quick response times.
In many hospitals, the number of isolation rooms is limited. During the height of the COVID-19 crisis, some hospitals were turning board rooms into isolation areas.That’s why, whether a patient tests positive or negative for COVID-19, it is important the assigned nurse and infection prevention specialist are notified immediately for proper triage. A patient who tests negative can be moved out of isolation to make room for another patient. Because the Vocera platform filters and prioritizes information, an alert about a patient’s COVID-19 test results can be automatically pushed from the EHR to the right care team member’s hands-free device, smartphone app, or web console.
The intensity of COVID-19 verified once again that clinicians need clear, contextual, just-in-time information at the point of care. There is no time to be searching for information or struggling to communicate. Information must be pushed to the healthcare team on the go. Clinicians don’t have time to search through complex fields within disparate systems. Safe and effective care requires purposeful communication and meaningful information centered around the patient. Vocera understands this need and provides a platform that does just this, reducing the cognitive burden for healthcare workers on the frontlines.
Vocera takes a human-centered design approach to developing innovative solutions. It starts with understanding current and potential users in their real-world environments. The company’s clinical executives, engineers, product developers, sales team members and more interview frontline healthcare workers and other users identify the problems that need solving and why. Vocera then gets to work on developing prototypes and sharing potential solutions with its user community.
Incorporating customer feedback throughout the engineering design and development process enables better technology and solutions when and where they are needed the most.
During patient surges caused by COVID-19, the company made sure their customers knew they were not alone and that the team of Vocera was there to support them, responding to their changing needs quickly and safely.
Vocera’s clinical team performed communication gap assessments remotely and customized plans per facility and situation, and executed on those plans remotely. They offered guidance for and set up urgent group workflows for mobilizing infection control and COVID-19 response teams.
One of their customers needed to redesign patient flow in the emergency department and expand its footprint to accommodate pop-up locations. Vocera’s clinical team joined them on the phone right away to conduct a series of 30-minute interviews with the hospital’s physicians, nurses, and administrative staff. With insight into what they needed, the team quickly designed new communication workflows that their deployment teams were able to implement in a matter of days. All of it was done remotely without putting stress on already strained resources at the hospital.
Another customer needed to flex capacity by converting single-bed rooms to two-bed rooms. The customer asked the team if they could create a solution for Vocera devices that would enable patients in isolation to use simple voice commands to communicate with mobile care team members safely and easily from their beds.
The request led their technical teams to build a new capability for use on the Badge on Smartbagde that would do that and more.