July 31 marks the twenty-first annual System Administrator Appreciation Day, also known as SysAdmin Day. System Administrator Appreciation Day’s official website says it is “the perfect opportunity to pay tribute to the heroic men and women who, come rain or shine, prevent disasters, keep IT secure, and put out tech fires left and right.”
From our vantage point at Vocera, we see the system administrator role as so much more than that. The work Vocera system administrators do is intrinsic to improving clinical workflows and outcomes, and saving lives.Many of our customers have a system administrator on staff who administrates their Vocera system. Other customers have contracted with Vocera for either a full-time onsite or remote system administrator. We want to recognize all these system administrators around the world.
In healthcare IT, a key part of a system administrator’s job is to bring people together, across disciplines, to make patient care safer and more efficient and improve clinical workflow and outcomes through the use of technology. It takes a community to make communication and collaboration solutions a success, and the system administrator’s work is at the heart of it. System administrators are part of the backbone that helps enable clinical teams to deliver the best in patient care.
In ordinary times, a Vocera system administrator is the person people go to for help with routine needs such as training, troubleshooting, and system changes. They are also typically involved with larger initiatives like improving emergency department (ED) throughput, operating room (OR) turnover rates, or patient and staff safety. It is often the system administrator who consults with clinical leadership to discuss communication workflow gaps and works with education teams to build out a new database design and train people.
In challenging times like we’ve witnessed with the COVID-19 pandemic, the critical role of the Vocera system administrator comes to the forefront, as some recent examples illustrate. In nearly all the health systems we work with that have experienced a patient surge due to COVID-19, our system administrators became essential, mission-critical staff.
At one California hospital, before COVID-19 screening measures were in place, asymptomatic patients arriving for care could enter alone or with family members and proceed to the ED.
The hospital implemented a new screening process and patient flow to identify and safely route patients who were possibly COVID-19 positive. Now, security staff are posted at each entrance as the first line of screening. Patients who complain of or present COVID-19 symptoms are escorted by a tent runner to a clinical screening tent outside the ED. After an initial clinical examination at the screening tent, patients are sent inside the hospital to the ED. The ED clinicians determine if the patient will go to the ICU or a quarantine unit.
Every change in the hospital’s patient flow meant a change in workflow and call flow, and the hospital’s Vocera system administrator set up role-based groups for all the new departments and roles. With role-based groups, a person using a Vocera communication device can call a group or team instantly just by saying, for example, “Call COVID tent runners” or “Call quarantine unit.” With wearable, voice-controlled communication, a user can communicate hands-free while wearing full PPE, helping to prevent transmission of disease.
The system administrator consulted with stakeholders and reconfigured the hospital’s Vocera system to support this massive pivot in less than a week, and led the training of about 200 new employees over a three-week period.
A hospital in Virginia made a similar transformation literally overnight. Its ICU staff moved to cover the COVID ward. The med surg unit staff shifted to cover the ICU. All the primary care nurses were redeployed to cover the med surg unit.Imagine how hard it would be for all these people to communicate if the hospital didn’t have a flexible communication platform. The hospital’s Vocera system administrator created new role-based groups for an entire shift of nurses in 15 minutes. This made it possible for everyone to communicate, even if they didn’t know who had been redeployed to which unit. At a hospital in the Middle East, the system administrator configured the Vocera system within an hour to enable hundreds of people to move to different roles at one time and still communicate.
At first blush, it might seem that a Vocera system administrator’s single most important attribute is technical expertise to build and maintain the communication system. Equally important is the work a system administrator does to facilitate and collaborate with people across disciplines – IT, nursing groups, physician groups, technology vendors, and more. The true superpower of the system administrator is listening to people and helping them all work together to make the hospital safer and more effective.
On System Administrator Appreciation Day and every day, we appreciate and value system administrators and celebrate their important contributions.
I’m interested in hearing how a system administrator has made a difference in clinical workflow at your hospital. I welcome you to reach out to me on LinkedIn.