Karen Kemp is a systems analyst and project manager for Covia (formerly Episcopal Senior Communities), a group of nonprofit senior-living communities in and around the San Francisco Bay area. For more than 50 years, Covia has been committed to providing outstanding residential options and community services under a single guiding principle: that how you live is just as important as where you live.
I’ll never forget the morning of the fires in Napa and Sonoma counties. I was walking my dog and got a text saying, “Can you get to Spring Lake Village?”
Spring Lake Village is one of our six Life Plan communities. I thought, “Okay, but why?” Then, I saw this big mushroom cloud over the hills, west of my house.
I went inside and told my husband, “I don’t know what it is, and I’ve never seen anything like it, but something is wrong.”
As it turned out, some of the staff at Spring Lake Village couldn’t get to the campus because of the way the fires were moving and spreading. The cell service on campus was limited, but I could communicate with on-duty staff at Spring Lake Village because they were wearing their Vocera® Badges, which are communication devices that run on the campus Wi-Fi. We used the Vocera system to coordinate the evacuation plan with staff and residents at the community. As a result, we were very fortunate everyone got out safely and quickly.
As with Spring Lake Village, each of our communities is like a five-star hotel. When people come to live with us, they trust us to make sure they will be safe and well-taken care of. I am responsible for the technology that supports communication, safety, and satisfaction for our residents and staff across all of our senior living communities.
We initially introduced the Vocera system to improve communication among the clinical staff in our communities, but quickly realized there are so many different use cases we could apply it to. Now we use it for housekeeping, landscaping, maintenance, and other functional areas. We even use it for our IT team, because we’re often on-site at our communities and frequently need to get hold of each other.
Before we adopted Vocera, our communities relied on two-way radios and cell phones for staff communications. Cell phone communication was often challenged by a lack of service availability, and the radios were limited in both their signal range and their ability to easily navigate communicating with different groups of staff using different channel settings. Now, with our Vocera system, our communication is standardized and consistent.
All of our communities have full campus Wi-Fi coverage, so we switched to what we call “our instant communication.” You don’t have to be near a phone; you can be anywhere on campus and communicate with another staff member.
Our residents can also connect quickly with staff members using Vocera technology because it is integrated with our STANLEY AeroScout system. For many years, we’ve had the STANLEY Healthcare AeroScout system in all six of our market rate communities for resident wander and emergency alerts. Our residents who need assistance can simply push a button on their wearable safety pendant or pull a string on their personal safety monitor to alert a staff member.
Before we had our Vocera system, our staff would receive these alerts only if they were sitting at their desk monitoring the alert system. After integrating the Vocera and STANLEY systems, alerts now go directly to a specific staff member or group on the Vocera Badges they wear. They get a voice and text message that includes the resident’s name, location, and type of event. That situational awareness is so important for the safety across our communities and the well-being of our residents. Depending on the situation and assistance needed, we can designate alerts to go to specific team members who can respond quickly based on their location or availability.
We have housekeeping, maintenance, security, clinical, and administrative staff – and even executive directors – who will not give up their Vocera Badges for anything. I was recently reconfiguring all our Vocera Badges, when one of our maintenance team members actually said, “Oh, no, you’re not getting mine! Don’t even think about taking my Vocera Badge.”
I said, “Well, come to my office and I’ll reconfigure it really quick and give it back to you.”
We rely on Vocera technology and love the instant communication it enables.