Patient's room phone with basic presence

Those who know about my phone startup Voxable will know I have far more ambitious goals regarding presence and telephony, but during my recent hospital stay, I thought of a simple subset idea that could make hospital phone systems much better for the patient, namely a way to easily specifiy whether it's a good time to call the patient or not. Something as simple as a toggle switch on the phone, or with standard phones, a couple of magic extensions they can dial to set whether it's good or not.

When you're in the hospital, your sleep schedule is highly unusual. You sleep during the day frequently, you typically sleep much more than usual, and you're also being woken up regularly by medical staff at any time of the day for visits, medications, blood pressure etc.

At Stanford Hospital, outsiders could not dial patient phones after 10pm, even if you might be up. On the other hand even when the calls can come through, people are worried if it's a good time. So a simple switch on the phone would cause the call to be redirected to voice mail or just a recording saying it's not a good time. Throw it to take a nap or do something else where you want peace and quiet. If you throw it at night, it stays in sleep mode until 8 or 9 hours. Then it beeps and reverts to available mode. If you throw it in the day, it will revert in a shorter amount of time (because you might forget) however a fancier interface would let you specify the time on an IVR menu. Nurses would make you available when they wake you in the morning, or you could put up a note saying you don't want this. (Since it seems to be the law you can't get the same nurse two days in a row.)

In particular, when doctors and nurses come in to do something with you, they would throw the switch, and un-throw it when they leave, so you don't get a call while in the middle of an examination. The nurse's RFID badge, which they are all getting, could also trigger this.

Now people who call would know they got you at a good time, when you're ready to chat. Next step -- design a good way for the phone to be readily reachable by people in pain, such as hanging from the ceiling on a retractable cord, or retractable into the rail on the side of the bed. Very annoying when in pain to begin the slow process of getting to the phone, just to have them give up when you get to it.


Isn't this just a DND (do not disturb) feature, already present on most phone systems and SIP phones?

The phones in hospitals are rarely PBX phones with such a button, but I have not seen one with automatic timing and an easy and simple UI.

Hi Brad

Interesting idea - but I'm not sure just how important it is that patients receive calls - I guess they are in hospital to get better, and that often includes rest...

Having said that, the phones are there, and there to stay.

What about using an RFID patient tag? Given its primary use is to avoid Wrong Site Surgery and provide other more basic medical/care info to staff, maybe it could be linked to the phone. If the read range of the phone's RFID reader was a couple of yards and its by the bed, maybe it would only receive calls when the patient is in bed/in their chair. Then you just have to add a tiny sensor to communicate if you are asleep or not - when you are, calls would be barred. The only other situation is staff examining you - maybe you just have to ignore the phone in that case ;-) Or maybe it sees their tag is present and also bars calls....?!



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