Health IT

Nurses can see why patients are calling with this digital bedside communication system


Traditionally, when a patient uses the nurse call button in a hospital room, the nurse would come to the room, find out what the patient needs, leave the room to retrieve medicine or find the correct staff member help, etc., and then come back.

A digital health startup called Starling Health, which will present at Health2.0 on Wednesday as a Top 10 DC to VC finalist, wants to make that process more efficient.


It’s doing that by allowing patients to send specific calls – for example, a notification that they need to go to the bathroom, need to get out of bed or need medication – that could potentially cut down on the time it takes for staff to fulfill their requests.  It can also route different types of calls specifically to different staff members, so the most appropriate level of care can be dispatched.

“We’re targeting hospitals that are building a new unit or looking to overhaul their existing nurse call systems,” said Marketing Manager Eric Goodnight. The software operates on touch-based devices like tablets or smartphones and connects over a wireless network, so it could be an affordable, easy-to-implement adjunct to hard-wired calling systems.

Nurses can also use the system to track patient requests and respond to them using stock messages, such as “I’m on the way” or “You need to wait x hours for that.”

On the patient side, the touch-screen system shows universal icons, which makes it easy to use, even for patients who don’t use computers, Goodnight said. He noted that there’s been an especially good response from seniors at one of the facilities where Starling is piloting the program.

Another feature of Starling’s platform is that it can be translated into virtually any language. It wouldn’t replace a translator, but “when you’re in NYC and you get into these different neighborhoods with really specific language needs, that’s going to come in handy,” Goodnight said.

Nurse-patient communication is an important part of patient-centered care and a potential factor in patient satisfaction. Other digital health companies including Voalte, Carex and Gweepi Medical target nurses, but none in this way. In addition to companies that have made wireless nurse call systems part of their offering – like TekTone and Ascom – Starling would have competition from Intego Software, which offers a program that also routes and prioritizes calls.

The startup is currently running two pilots – one at a critical access hospital in rural West Virginia, and another in a New York facility. After three or four months, the company hopes the platform will demonstrate a more efficient nurse workflow, and as a result, a good ROI for the facilities. From there, it’s a matter of refining the product and getting the necessary exposure, Goodnight said.

“We’ve truly never been told this isn’t going to work,” Goodnight said. “This is where healthcare it systems are going – we’re going to continue to develop the product along the way to drive savings.”

[Photo from Starling Health]

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