Vocera debuts new features and additions to mobile communication system
During the 2008 HIMSS conference in Orlando, Fla., Vocera highlighted a new software version for its communication software system as well as a WiFi phone and its Communications Badge to help mobile workers communicate more effectively and efficiently.

“Healthcare is probably one the most mobile industries around,” Brent Lang, president and COO, Vocera, told Health Imaging News. “Patients are moving, clinicians are moving, the equipment is moving, so understanding workflow in a mobile environment is a number one priority for our customers.” He added that coming up with systems and procedures that can deal with a vast amount of complex data in a very real time manner is also important to Vocera’s customers.

Lang said the company is trying to address those issues by doing a lot of back-end integration with other applications and by making the Vocera Communication System a mobile services platform for integrating multiple systems within the hospital, such as EMRs, transcription, foreign language interpretation, location-based services, not just notifications and alarms. This will enable the Vocera server to become a service delivery platform for a lot of these different areas.

As part of that move toward a service delivery platform, Vocera announced the 4.1 release of its communication system software during HIMSS, Lang said.

“There is a lot of great functionality to the 4.1 release,” Lang said. The software version will be released in beta in the second quarter and will be generally available in the third quarter of this year, he said.

“We built the new features around three primary areas: enhanced core product features, powerful new applications, and intelligent workflow capabilities,” Lang said. The administrative enhancements and practical applications will cause dramatic changes for busy staff as they expand the use of Vocera, he added.

Lang said that administrators can now keep track of who has which badge, when it was last used and what department has it. The system automatically notifies the administrator if another department begins using a badge via email and generates use reports that can be scheduled weekly, he said.

Lang said Vocera plans to add the capability of doing dictation directly from the badge and send it off to a dictation service to create a report which can be attached to a patient’s medical record.

The 4.1 release also introduces remote dial-in for a user with a caller ID and a pin number. “At that point, it is as if you are wearing a badge within the four walls of the hospital—this has a lot of applicability for people who are responsible for 24/7 care of a patient,” Lang said. This also has applications in radiology, he added. Radiologists can contact a doctor, wherever they are in the facility, if they see something on a study and need to reach that doctor immediately.

Vocera is also looking ahead to becoming a device agnostic company, he said. “Today we have the badge; in the future we are going to have a WiFi phone. We are looking toward the PDA, possibly even a tablet PC. The idea is that, depending on the workflow of a particular user, they would change which device they were using but still take advantage of the Vocera experience and tie into all the back-end integration done from a services perspective.”

The WiFi phone is the T100 Vocera phone that transmits over the hospital’s WiFi but behaves like the Vocera badge, he said. “There is actually a call button on the side of the phone which connects you to the Vocera server and allows you to issue all Vocera commands—call by name, broadcast and more.”

Whether a user prefers the hands-free, wearable Communications Badge or the T1000 Vocera Phone, all features and benefits of the Vocera Communications System are available, Lang added.

Based on user feedback, Lang said mobile workers wanted the functionality of the badge and a phone in one system—one “gateway to the Vocera system.”