Sunday, October 15, 2006

TV Remote Controls

From time to time, I will post a comment on the little things that work well or poorly in our hospital. I hope this will give you an insight into the unusual aspects of running a hospital that are not present in other organizations. If you want to send me other examples, I will try to address them, too.

How many of you have been a patient in a hospital bed and have faced the problem of the TV remote control that requires you to cycle through the entire set of channels to get back to an earlier channel or to turn off the television? How incredibly frustrating, right? You lie there in bed and say, "What dodo thought of this?" Here is the explanation, from our person in charge of facilities, in response to a patient's complaint:

"We researched it and found that the remote is the one that is connected into our nurse call system, and the company did not have alternatives that would be more convenient. We checked with other hospitals in town and they all had the same limitations. Having these systems integrated reduces the number of separate handheld items hooked to the bed and allows the speaker to be at the bed, particularly important in a double room.

"We looked into the possibility of making available commercially available universal remotes and programming them to work on our TVs, but they would not meet the infection control and electronic system standards required in a hospital (e.g., the infrared used could interfere with the monitoring system). We went back to the nurse call system company, and they are now going to offer remotes that let you turn the TV off without cycling through the stations and allow you to cycle backwards (so if you are on Channel 5 and want Channel 4, you do not have to go ALL around). We don't know if they figured out this new technology based on our call or not. They claimed nobody had ever inquired about this before, but regardless, we are thrilled. As we replace our older remotes, we will use these alternative products and continue to push the company to do even better by more closely mimicking the remotes we all have at home."


Star Lawrence said...

I would like to call attention to the Oct 16, 2006, issue of Newsweek, which contains a special report on "Fixing America's Hospital Crisis." Many interesting stories about innovative brainstorms and approaches.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Yes, there are tons of ideas out there -- some practical, some not -- as hospitals, phsyicians, and private industry hope to find the golden grail of greater efficiency, lower cost, and better quality.

Anonymous said...

I think this is very interesting, both from the aspect of working in a hospital as well as being a patient for awhile myself.

The next concern is, how to accurately differentiate the power button to the call bell. I think its amusing to go into a room to help and the patient says "i was just trying to turn on the TV!"

Kind-of makes me smile every time. And the buttons are pretty clearly labeled where I work too!

Star Lawrence said...

Are the buttons where you work on the bed rail? What is up with that? If you have an IV on that side, you have to be a gentle contortionist to call the nurse or turn off the TV. What if you don't have your glasses on...You better memorize the thing if you have a lucid moment.

Anonymous said...

This is not on the topic of this post but on the blog generally. I really enjoy reading your stuff and I am very happy to see a hospital manager embracing blogging.

Would you mind enabling the atom feed on your blog? I use personalized google home page to watch dozens of healthcare related blogs using rss/atom feeds. This way when you make a post, I can come over and read it instantly!!


Anonymous said...

What does that mean, and how do I do it?

Anonymous said...

What you ask for readily exists today; I'll spare you the sales pitch (but ever so tempted...LOL!)

Pillowspeakers exist that allow for "direct access" to a given channel, or simple up/down channel plus a seperate "on/off". The challenge is replacing the existing units with new ones. A budget issue, not a technology issue.

Remotes are a problem from a patient and staff satisfaction perspective...loss of batteries, end up in laundry, get legs and walk...

Anonymous said...

Fred, an ATOM feed of headlines from this blog is already being published. Try it out!

Paul, the idea behind RSS (or atom) technology is that someone who has a blog publishes headlines in a format that's easy for a computer program to understand. So every morning, a computer program (in Fred's case, Google Reader) checks all his favorite websites to see if anything new has been written.

As a new blogger, I'd encourage you to check out the technology. You can monitor your favorite websites, and when you spot something newsworthy, you can comment about it on your own blog. Word to the wise however: the more time you spend reading other people's news, the less time you have to write about BID.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks. It is a wonderful new world out there . . . :))

Anonymous said...

I think by "pillow speakers", you are referring to what we have today, which is the TV controls built into the equipment that is "at/near the pillow" of the patient that is also the nurse call system. One of the reasons we don't use a separate regular TV remote is that it wouldn't meet hospital standards of cleanability as it has too many ridges, etc., in which germs can accumulate. The nurse call systems are designed to be completed sanitized.

Anonymous said...

Confirming the above, our head of equipment maintenance tells me: "The pillow speakers are a sealed unit and can easily be wiped down as part of the room prep after patient discharge, before the next guest arrives. They are designed to withstand liquid spills without penetration. In a worst case scenario they could be gas sterilized, but that hasn't ever been an issue. They are probably one of the easier items to disinfect. BTW - controls are clearly labelled and we haven't seen any trends in patients placing calls for nurses when they really meant to turn on the television!"

Anonymous said...

Michael Cohen, on, posts the following about my site on this topic:

"There's a post today on fixing remote controls for the television sets. This is a good idea in terms of efficiency, but I would go a bit deeper and ask whether these tv boxes really help patients heal. Sure, there's entertainment and distraction, the theory goes, but what about the distracting effect on people who heal in silence?

"There's also a question -- unanswerable, no doubt, though there will be passionate opinions -- as to whether television enhances or diminishes spirituality ... and how important it may be to retain and magnify one's spiritual center, however expressed, from the hospital bed."

To which I respond, if people want quiet, they can turn off their television. So, I guess I don't understand why he makes this point in this context.

Anonymous said...

Here is the story on hospital TV remote controls: Older TVs had analog remote control in which a contact closure from the nursecall pillowspeaker caused the TV to advance through all of its channels, followed by the off position. This was OK in the days when hospitals offered just a dozen, or so, channels. Newer hospital grade TVs have "digital remote control" functionality (this "digital" feature has nothing to do with the picture quality, HD, etc.). "Digital remote control" allows the pillowspeaker to send digital pulse codes for on/off, channel up/down, etc. You must have the correct model "digital" pillowspeakers from your nursecall manufacturer that are compatible with the brand of TV you are using (Zenith, RCA, or Philips), as TV each manufacturer has their own non-compatible digital codes

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

As a nurse working in your institution, this is one of the common complaint i get which i dont know how to address, its second to the complaint that we have old TV's (compared to NEMC where they have flat screen) and i reply to them that atleast the service is free:)

I worked in an institution where they have similar control the difference is theirs have an up and down button and a separate on /off button with the nurse call light and speaker as well, maybe this one would work for BI.

I do have other suggestions that might be beneficial to our institution but i am not sure where to send it or if i should write you an email through our system.

Please advise sir and hope this one would help.


Anonymous said...

Please send me an email. Happy to get ideas.

bdelucia said...

The technology you are claiming is not there has actually been around for several years.
I work in hospital technologies. Curbell Inc. has had a digital pillow speaker that doubles as a full feature remote for the TV. Volume up/down, on/off, direct entering of channels. However they are not cheap and hospitals become reluctant to make the investment. My company has sold many but to only the more elite of hospitals who really have a true goal of the best patient satisfaction possible instead of dollars.

Anonymous said...

Within the last year some companies offer new digital pillow speakers with numeric pads (like on a normal remote) to directly type the channel desired. They are referred to as "direct access" i believe, and cost similar if slightly more than scrolling type. Of course, it must be a digital TV, pillow speaker ordered specific to brand of TV, etc.
MBoynton CTSI, Chantilly, VA