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Nurse Call Systems Don’t Always Need Upgrades: Patient Experiences Do

Updated: Mar 22

A pateient sitting in a hospital bed looking through his phone with what he is looking at behind him. HE is looking at apps involving nurse call objectives

Quick Summary

  • It’s important to embrace new healthcare technology. But starting from scratch isn’t always necessary.

  • Companies like HatchMed aim to extract maximum actionable value from nurse call systems, saving care teams time, supporting efforts to provide quality care, and improving patient experience. 

  • Healthcare delivery organizations (HDOs) looking to implement solutions like HatchMed’s nurse call system should ask why they want or need the new technology, while also paying attention to infrastructure and security requirements.

It’s all too easy for hospitals to learn about new healthcare technology and think they need to upgrade — regardless of whether it’s the right solution for them.

Not so, argues Kyrylo Keydanskyy, Chief Product Officer at technology device leader HatchMed. “There's always going to be a drive for new tech, and there's a view that nurse calls [systems] have to be upgraded, replaced or moved aside,” he says. “But a lot of the tech and workflows in hospitals…have really evolved around the nurse call system.”

In With the Old, In With the New

HatchMed takes a unique approach: adapting consumer devices for healthcare personnel, rather than creating brand-new technology. It does this not by throwing out the old, but by paying respect to its historical roots in the industry. After all, HatchMed’s Director of Engineering, Carl Cox, was a key player in early nurse call system innovation while working at manufacturers Picker/Briggs and Rauland-Borg in the 1970s.

Carl has a long, storied career in developing and working with nurse call systems, as well as UL 1069, the regulatory body and standard for hospital signaling and nurse call equipment. Because he understands what has gone into making nurse call systems work over the years — as well as the standard that regulates them — he also knows that innovation sometimes requires working with what’s already in place rather than uprooting and replacing it with an entirely new system. Overhauls that frequently ignore standards can work, but may end up doing more harm than good.

Kryrylo works alongside Carl, bringing his passion for usability and accessibility for patients to the table. Despite belonging to different generations, their perspectives merge to inform HatchMed’s forward-thinking technology. 

Both Carl and Kyrylo embody the organization’s modus operandi: combining the old and the new in one environment. But the balancing act isn’t always an easy one. “Trying to go in [to a hospital] and replace or get rid of the nurse call system is harder than it seems,” Kyrylo explains. “Any new tech that we introduce to the hospitals needs to be balanced and integrated in a way that works with existing systems and doesn't force care teams to become IT people trying to learn everything about it.”

Nurse call systems have certainly evolved throughout Carl’s career. “Nurse call was originally a safety-based system, but over time manufacturers integrated workflow for caregivers,” he says. “We really innovated on the caregiver side of the equation, but there’s been little to none on the patient side.”

Case in point: Pillow speakers in the 2020s look very similar to how they did back in the 1960s. Why has there been no real innovation in design? Because they work. But just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be better. This is exactly the kind of challenge that HatchMed is built for developing devices that feel familiar to patients and based on those used at home — but for use in hospital settings.

By improving communication between patients, caregivers, and their families, HDOs see happier patients and better-informed caregivers.

Reinvigorating Patient Experience 

Improving nurse call systems to better enhance patient experience doesn’t require upending pre-existing technology. 

“For starters, we're giving patients a much more configurable screen to work with,” Carl highlights. Rather than pressable buttons for each type of assistance — like nurses or pain medication — patients now have the option to provide feedback to caregivers for specific needs. Additionally, screens are operable in 10 different languages, which isn’t possible with traditional pillow speaker controls. 

HatchMed can take the interactivity of controllable TVs in patient rooms along with patient-owned smart devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops and unify them. These previously disparate systems can now be merged under a single banner. On top of that, patient-specific information can be integrated into the experience by pulling from electronic medical records (EMR) software. 

Security implications

Patient data security is also a driving concern for HatchMed: Ultimately, data can’t leave the hospital, making this less about patient delivery and more about controlling data. 

Potential solutions include automatically disconnecting patients when they’re discharged and geolocation lockdown for restricted, hospital-only digital access. Some HDOs opt for QR code stickers, while others may prefer text links before patient stays. It’s up to each HDO to decide on the level of data access they provide patients versus the risks of that access.

Unifying Software and Infrastructure

Not all healthcare technology providers focus as much on infrastructure as on software. HatchMed bucks that trend.

The company’s background in infrastructure creates an environment for more complementary and easier customer adoption. Its smart IoT (Internet of Things,) hub plugs into existing pillow speaker sockets on patient stations and connects to the cloud, controlling TVs, shades, lighting, temperature, and other environmental factors — sometimes even using voice-activated technology.

Amping up and overlaying existing technology and infrastructure is attractive in, cost, too. Some HDOs choose to replace existing systems entirely and keep their patient experience universal, while others opt for incremental upgrades with varying patient experiences depending on wing, unit, and, floor.

3 Considerations For HDOs

HDOs planning to upgrade or overhaul their existing infrastructure and systems — particularly concerning nurse call systems — should consider four key elements:

  1. The reason for the new technology: Sometimes the siren call of new technology and extra features can cloud people’s judgment. Of course, every hospital wants to empower patients with new technology. However, to work properly, all new technology needs to be backed by both champions and concrete plans that start small and are realistic. “Start with a handful of the features,” Kyrylo says. “Down the road, expand it.” Hospitals that want “to do everything all at once,” he says, “always get a bumpy start.”

  2. Ethernet or WiFi connectivity: Carl explains that most of HatchMed’s operations aren’t particularly data-heavy, which means they’re quickest and easiest to implement via wireless systems. Whether relying on WiFi or ethernet, the connection must be good enough to handle data streaming.

  3. Security: Hospitals must open a portal for the solution provider to “connect the power of the cloud and give them these features,” Carl says. All that’s required is the aforementioned ethernet or WiFi-based connection and an accessible port on which the provider can set up a secure link.

  4. Data: Solution providers must work with EMR teams to obtain core information for system input, such as patient native language and location.

In any case, implementation takes “far less than punching out holes in the wall, dropping conduits, and putting in a whole new system,” Carl explains.

Final Thoughts

Gone should be the days of sticky notes and pen marks on glass doors: Digital signage is a no-brainer, especially for hospitals using consumer devices. Up-to-date information saves time for care teams who need to notify each other of where patients are in their respective processes. More importantly, it’s one example of taking a device designed for the consumer and industrializing it for the rigors of the hospital environment.

“Part of what we're doing is providing that housing and power so that it's always there, working and protected,” Carl says. 

“What we're really focused on is how do we give patients and care team products that they want to use?” Kyrylo adds. The answer is to leverage what’s already in place, upgrading it for a fraction of the cost of a complete replacement, and moving into a digitalized, wireless future for better communication and patient care outcomes.


Carl Cox is the Director of Engineering and Quality Control at HatchMed with 50 years of design experience and 40 years of regulatory experience in the healthcare communication industry. Having spent much of this time with Chicago-based manufacturer Rauland-Borg, Carl began consulting in 2017, taking on HatchMed as a client before joining the company three years later in a full-time role. 

Since Kyryll Keydanskyy, a Ukraine native and UW graduate, first joined HatchMed 7 years ago, he has been focused on taking consumer devices and reengineering them for healthcare use. How do you transform something as ubiquitous and easy to use as an iPad into a medical device, or take the patient’s phone and make it seamlessly control the nurse call system? Kyryll has created innovative hardware and software solutions to revolutionize these products for patients and care team members alike. A self-proclaimed tech fanboy, he is passionate about working alongside his design and engineering team to invent products that are intuitive to use, elegantly engineered, and most importantly, created to save both patients and care team members time at every step in their healthcare journey.



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