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RCare Deploys Rapid End-to-End Nurse Call System to Help Fight COVID-19


Photos provided by Shutterstock
Interview with Nick Garofoli, Director of Operations and Technology, RCare

Audio communication systems are indispensable tools which help medical staff communicate with quarantined patients suffering from COVID-19. Due to its easy deployment and management, the RCare nurse call system was discussed as a possible solution during a meeting between White House officials, the US Army, and Johnson Controls. It was considered as part of a larger solution aimed at managing field hospitals being set up in New York City during COVID-19. Presently, more than 30 field hospitals across the US are leveraging the RCare nurse call system to care for COVID-19 patients. Indeed, the system has been a critical part of medical environments tasked with containing the pandemic in the US.

Important contributions to fighting the pandemic

Six years ago, RCare developed the RDK nurse call system in response to the Ebola outbreak in the US. According to Nick Garofoli, RCare’s Director of Operations and Technology, the company’s nurse call system is a comprehensive end-to-end solution. The plug-and-play and user-friendly RDK nurse call system is an all-in-one touchscreen caregiver console and server. It gives administrators the ability to conduct both onsite and remote hospital monitoring. Administrators can also manage multiple systems through the remote MyAdvantech 13 web interface. Mr. Garofoli pointed out that the RDK system, developed six years ago and widely used in hospitals and medical centers, is a proven, field-tested, and mature product. In fact, it only takes customers fifteen minutes to complete the deployment of this nurse call system. This has made RCare a leading provider in the fight against COVID-19.

RCare’s RDK system includes a small touchscreen; 40 waterproof, sterilizable, and reusable call button pendants; and 40 clip-on bed signs that correspond to the call button pendants. When patients push a call button, medical staff receive the call immediately and provide appropriate assistance as required. Garofoli explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a severe shortage of medical personnel in the US. Retired medical professionals have therefore been recruited, or have voluntarily offered to help. RCare’s nurse call system has helped alleviate some of the problems associated with the personnel shortage, since it allows nurses to understand patients’ needs without going back and forth between wards, and to gain detailed information through the touchscreen. The system has greatly eased workloads for medical personnel and significantly reduced the level of physical exertion and fatigue.

Currently, RCare’s system has been deployed to 31 hospitals and field hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients in the US, including convention centers such as theTCF Center in Michigan and Worcester’s DCU Center in Massachusetts, which were transformed into field hospitals. Because of the enormous space of these venues, multiple caregiver consoles were implemented, while a single back-end server efficiently manages and maintains the nurse call systems in the center, and allows the system to serve a large number of patients.

Advantech provides comprehensive and diverse services

The first-generation RDK system, developed six years ago, integrated Advantech’s HIT-W121 Embedded Computer with an 11.6” screen that provided a stable and high-performance platform. To accommodate COVID-19, the RCare system adopted Advantech’s new HIT-W153 Embedded with a 15.6” screen.

In terms of hardware, Advantech’s HIT-W153 is in compliance with ITE’s dual certifications: EN 60601-1 and IEC 62368. It is equipped with an emergency button and LED light, and its circuit design conforms to stringent safety requirements. The device successfully helped Rcare pass Nurse Call Equipment Standards UL1069, allowing medical staff to provide better healthcare services. According to Mr. Pluto Kao from Advantech, one of Rcare RDK’s peripherals is a headset, which serves as an excellent tool for communication between staff and patients. To ensure stable signals for the headset, specifically for output of the sound source signal, Advantech implemented a two-stage noise-canceling feature to significantly reduce ambient noise, providing clear communication.

Advantech also wrote a corresponding software development kit (SDK) on the host system while assisting Rcare with the project. This allowed the system integrator(SI) and hospital IT staff to develop required functions for their application fields in the shortest time possible. Pluto stated that through the SDK, the SI can configure the switch function of the channels according to the ambient condition. For the LED light, the SI can quickly develop various lighting modes that fit application needs. And for maintenance purposes, IT staff can take advantage of the Watchdog timer—used to detect system abnormalities—to carry out remote configuration without disturbing staff or patients.

There were tremendous material shortage problems caused by the pandemic when Rcare implemented the system for field hospitals in the United States. Advantech’s R&D, product ion, and purchasing departments worked tirelessly to fulfill RCare’s product needs in the shortest possible time. Additionally, as an all-in-one (AIO) medical-grade computer, the HIT-W153 is extremely easy to clean and disinfect. This feature is very helpful for field isolation hospitals as disinfection and cleaning tasks need to be performed regularly. These tasks shouldn’t cause damage to the industrial-grade materials of the computer.

Advantech’s products play key role in RCare’s system

“The high quality and cost-effectiveness of Advantech’s products brought critical advantages to the RCare systems. At least 60% of RCare’s systems are equipped with Advantech products and all of our COVID-19 systems use an Advantech device,” explained Mr. Garofoli. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has unified RCare, Advantech, and other partners’ missions: to accelerate the deployment of advanced technology systems.

The industrial computers designed by Advantech are based on market needs for different sizes and system configurations. They therefore fulfill RCare’s need for rapid system building. Additionally, it is imperative that medical care systems are stable and reliable. Advantech’s high-quality products meet these criteria. The fact that Garofoli has never had to contact Advantech’s support team for equipment issues has made a deep impression on him.

In addition to the RDK nurse call system, RCare integrates Advantech technology in its core product line, including the HCube and the BCube Plus—call systems that serve RCare’s primary market: the senior citizen industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way in which people live and work. It has also reaffirmed the importance of technology for good healthcare delivery.

RCare is dedicated to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with Advantech. Together, they will continue to use smart technology to win this battle, and to create better and healthier lives in the post-pandemic world.