OnPage Chosen by Alberta Health Services to Maintain Employee Health
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is Canada’s largest provincewide health system responsible for delivering health services to Alberta’s citizens and maintaining the health of the system’s over 108,000 employees. Occupational health is a significant issue for such a large workforce population, specifically when confronted with blood body fluid exposures (BBFE).
AHS’s Workplace Health and Safety group shifts into high gear to maintain the health of employees when potential exposures are reported. OnPage is a significant part of the success of AHS’ ability to limit the impact and spread of exposures.
Different drums. Different drummers
Prior to AHS’ adoption of OnPage however, each of Alberta’s five zones had different policies for managing how AHS employees should report BBFE in their zone. Some zones used a dedicated iPhone for nurses to receive alerts when a BBFE came up. When a nurse’s shift was over, she or he would pass the iPhone on to the next on-call nurse.
Other zones had no on-call nurses at all. Instead, BBFEs were handled by the emergency department. Nurses would follow up with the AHS worker the following day if the incident happened after hours. Alternatively, other zones managed on-call by having all BBFE reports go to a call center when employees wanted to report an incident.
The lack of standardization had negative impacts on the system. Some of the results were:
- Inconsistent quality of response: Some employees got called back immediately and some waited until the following day.
- Significant costs. AHS incurred significant expenses from using call centers to report exposures
- Emergency room visits. When AHS employees presented at the emergency room with potential contamination, they were entitled for workman’s comp which often meant unnecessary expenses for the healthcare system. Frequently, these expenses were not necessary and could have been managed by the occupational health nurse (OHN)
- Workflow challenges. Nurses had significant challenges in trying to get in touch with impacted employees.
Eventually, the need for standardization led AHS to choose OnPage. AHS realized they needed to ensure AHS employees calling in could reliably and quickly reach OHNs. Additionally, callers’ quality of service should not and could not be impacted by their geography.
In the improved systems, employees called a dedicated number if they suspected they had BBFE. On the dedicated number, they would hear a recorded message and provide instructions on how to leave a call back number and voicemail for the OHN in their zone. The nurse was then able to do a risk assessment and determine appropriate next steps. The employee would then almost immediately receive a call back from an OHN telling them to go to the lab for testing.
By switching to OnPage, AHS spent 75% less than they did with their legacy process.
OnPage also provided AHS with its reporting functionality which enabled management at AHS to look into the system and see call volumes across various time periods as well as peek hours of paging. Management now sees that the insights gained from reporting will have a significant impact on how AHS manages BBFE in the months to come.
Specifically, reporting will enable management to move to a “province focus” over a “zone focus” for management of BBFE. This means that as reports of exposures peak in certain months, AHS can increase the number of on-call nurses to handle the increased number of calls. However, when there is an ebb in the number of calls, management can decrease the number of on-call nurses from one for each zone to (potentially) three to cover all five zones.
Additionally, by using the reporting feature, AHS has the ability to better manage nursing workloads. If, for example, nurses in a particular zone are working significantly more due to an outbreak, management will be able to view the increase in the number of alerts the nurses are receiving. With this knowledge, management can act to provide relief to those nurses who have spent many extra hours managing alerts.
According to AHS management:
“ [OnPage] has helped AHS Workplace Health and Safety by standardizing our provincial on call system , and allowing our clients to all have the same equal access to an OHN.”
With the introduction of OnPage, AHS has been able to provide a consistent level of service across the province. Employees living in the more remote North zone receive the same quality and immediacy of care as employees living in the more populous Edmonton zone.
Of equal importance, AHS can keep its employees healthy by ensuring immediate responses to potential exposures. These great outcomes have been achieved while decreasing overall costs and increasing the happiness of the nurses on call.
See our original press release on Alberta Health Services.