What Do I Need For An Effective And Reliable Personal Emergency Response System (PERS)?
Also called a Medical Emergency Response System, the key element is an electronic, self-contained console that can provide rapid communication to request personal or medical emergency assistance and answers to medical questions.� This type of system provides invaluable medical assistance to infant and child care givers, handicapped and invalid patients and, of course elderly people.� As with any system, your PERS is only as effective and reliable as its weakest link or element.� To be effective, a PERS should aid in the prevention of medical complications and saving lives, respond to only bona fide Paramedic and Emergency Medical Team (EMT) emergencies and, at the same time, aid in keeping the medical patient at home. �With that being said, here are the essential elements of an effective and reliable PERS.
- Initial personal consultation with a knowledgeable person regarding all aspects of equipment installation and operation: payment of fees; insurance reimbursement; communication with emergency response operators, Paramedic/EMT emergency responders and the medical professionals through a tele-dial Nurse Call Line.
- Console programming, installation, operation and maintenance.� The console must be programmed with accurate, up-to-date telephone numbers for communicating with the monitoring station and Nurse Call Line Center.� In addition, a patient account number must be programmed and the monitoring station given the patient�s current address and contact names and phone numbers.� Installation typically consists of plugging into a standard wall outlet and connecting to a phone jack.� The operation is equally simple.� On the console or pendant, the patient pushes an EMERGENCY button or, if a Nurse Call Line is integral, the push of a NURSE call button.� A responsible person must make sure the installation is done correctly and that the patient understands how to operate the console and pendant.� Maintenance typically consists of periodically cleaning the equipment and, when necessary, replacing the rechargeable backup battery. The remote pendant transmitter communicates via radio waves to a RF (radio frequency) receiver in the console.� This is a proven and reliable RF technology that has been used in the security and life safety industry for over two decades.� (State-of-the-art PERS console-to-pendant range is rated at 600 feet; subtracting 10 feet for each wood-framed wall the signal must pass through.)
The console communicates to the emergency response operators and to the Nurse Call Line Center in one of two ways:�
a)� traditional telephone (land) line or b) cellular radio transmitter.� At this time, the traditional telephone line channel is the most reliable simply because there is more potential interference with a cellular signal.� Other technologies I�ve seen used in PERS is GPS and VoIP (DSL, cable) however these technologies have serious limitations which reduce their reliability, accuracy and efficiency for a personal emergency response system.
- Monitoring station.� An integral part of the PERS is a UL certified Emergency Response Call Center where trained and certified emergency response operators are on-call 24/7.
- Contractual agreement. A written contract benefits, both, the patient and the vendor.� It guarantees an exact fee for a defined duration of time and it defines the warranty and services the patient can expect to receive.
- Payment of fees.� Will the equipment be purchased or leased?� What are the fees for monitoring and nurse call line services?� Are there any additional fees?
- Reimbursement of fees. Is the patient or a responsible party responsible for payment or will a third party - Medicare or private insurance company - be responsible for payment?
- Communication with emergency response operators. After installation the console and pendant should be tested and the patient given opportunity to practice operating the call buttons on both the console and pendant, and to experience the two-way voice communication with the emergency operator.
- Communication with professional care givers.� If the patient has personal questions about his or her medical care, he or she must have a means of communicating those questions and concerns to knowledgeable, certified medical professionals who can assess the patient�s condition.� Ideally, communication should be available 24/7, direct and without interruption to a live and trained triage nurse and, ultimately, to a board certified registered nurse.� In turn, the medical professionals who speak directly with the patient must be able to communicate with the patient�s immediate, personal care givers.� This typically takes place through a written triage report faxed or e-mailed to the primary care giver.
Although both traditional dial-in service and console/pendant-integrated provide two-way voice conversation with medical professionals, there are proven advantages of a console/pendant-integrated tele-triage Nurse Call Line.
a) NURSE button initiation provides faster, more reliable connection to medical professionals and
b) faster response and answers to a patient�s questions.
c) A recent pilot study has proved that the patient is more likely to use a console/pendant-integrated tele-triage service�36% usage rate�vs. a dial-in tele-triage service which we know has a national average usage rate of less than 2%;
d) plus, the patient is less likely to summon emergency help and be sent to the ER. Again, from this same study, 81% of patient Nurse Call Line calls resulted in care that resulted in at-home care and required no ER visit.
e) The immediate conversation with a caring and knowledgeable triage nurse is comforting and reassuring to the patient.
Simply because warning signs are more quickly assessed or discovered during these conversations and appropriate preventative measures are implemented, the console/pendant-integrated tele-triage service has proven to aid in keeping the patient at home longer and in keeping the patient healthier.
- Communication with the equipment vendor�s customer service.� When the patient or primary care giver has questions about the PERS, there should be a knowledgeable person who represents the equipment manufacturer to contact.
- The patient, and/or a responsible party who is in continual, personal contact with the patient and monitors his/her health condition.
-John J. Hadley, President