Myth-buster: TETRA in medical care

Myth-buster: TETRA in medical care

Avoid these 5 misunderstandings about radio for health and safety communications

 

Here's how North Karelia Central Hospital in Finland is busting five common misunderstandings about TETRA in medical care.

MYTH 1:
"Health organisations need only a couple of authority radios to use if and when there's a major incident."  

REALITY
You wouldn't want your ambulance drivers to step into their ambulances for the first time when they need to rush to an emergency. Why would you ask your team members to wait for a crisis to get familiar with communication equipment?

In 2008 almost no one at North Karelia Central Hospital in Finland knew how to use digital VIRVE radios. In the beginning, 10 "users" shared one radio device.

Today, some 600 users all use VIRVE radios routinely.

Adopting radio communication for everyday use is the key to using it effectively in a serious situation, says Jari Hirvonen, emergency nurse. VIRVE is the best choice for major incidents, he says, because it connects different agencies.

Another myth — that GSM is sufficient — shatters the minute disturbances take the system down when it's needed most. Or when large events congest the system so it's not available just when getting in touch becomes a matter of life or death.

MYTH 2:
"TETRA communications are for public safety and security emergencies, not for healthcare organisations.  "

REALITY
Ever heard of emergency medical care?

Need to call, say, a cardiac care team in the middle of the night? Just write one short text message to the group and push Send. In two seconds, you'll have delivered the message to the whole team, who can confirm with a quick status message.

"It has never taken us more than three minutes to reach all of the 80 people in the group," North Karelia Central's Hirvonen says. When the hospital used GSM, leaders could reach only three people in those three minutes.

Of course, you could use email. But email messages go astray. And they can take more than an hour to reach their recipients.

And sometimes email just won't work. Say you need to transport patients for treatment, and you're looking for available beds. Radio is the better, faster choice.

"It has never taken us more than three minutes to reach all of the 80 people in the group," says Jari Hirvonen, energency nurse at North Karelia Central Hospital.  Jari Hirvonen - TETRA in emergency medical care - Key Touch magazine


MYTH 3
:
"People in this field don't want to use radio communication. "

REALITY
Once they learn it, they can't live without it.

North Karelia Central emergency nurse Jaana Saviranta remembers how hard it was to understand rescue workers through noisy analogue radios.

"I also appreciate how much time TETRA saves, compared to the old GSM system," she says. "It's great to be able to talk to everyone via a one-to-one call using the PTT."

TETRA radios also support safety, she says. When she's alone with a patient and needs help — say a patient has a seizure while she's wheeling him to another room — her fastest way to call for support is the radio.

"Before, everyone had to let the emergency reception know their whereabouts. If you needed someone, the reception nurse would look for the person," she says. "Now, if you need someone, you just make a single announcement to the group or place a one-to-one call."

MYTH 4:
"Training is difficult and expensive."

REALITY
Medical training is difficult and expensive, too, but you wouldn't want to run a health system without it. And radio training is faster, easier, less expensive and more effective than ever.

In fact, you can make TETRA training part of your standard orientation process.

Training doesn't require an elaborate network, because simulation is more effective. You can even have the simulator set to match the trainees' real operational tasks.

North Karelia Central has a TETRAsim classroom simulator. Two employees act as trainers. In the classroom, trainees work at their own speed of learning, repeating the exercises until they're confident of their skills.

With TETRAsim, your team not only learns which buttons to press, they practice using them in realistic situations.

TETRAsim classroom simulator - North Karelia Central Hospital - Key Touch magazine

Training doesn't require an elaborate network, because simulation is more effective. You can even have the simulator set to match the trainees' real operational tasks.

North Karelia Central has a TETRAsim classroom simulator.


MYTH 5
:
"GSM is easier to use than TETRA."

REALITY
Butter knives are easier to use than scalpels, too, but that doesn't make them the right tools for the job. And radio comms over TETRA is a breeze once you know how to work it.

"When I started as a hospital nurse, we adopted GSM phones since the technology was becoming commonplace," North Karelia Central's Saviranta says. "Now, we no longer want to use GSM in work-related tasks because it is so much effort."

What's more, GSM is not reliable enough for emergency medical care. You cannot rely on it during a major incident. As people call the emergency number - or check on their nearest and dearest - public networks get blocked.

And for Hirvonen, his THR880i handset has become almost an extension of himself: "Sometimes I complete a whole eight-hour shift and don't have to take the radio off its holster at all. I'm so familiar with it, I can use the radio without looking at it." 

 

The nationwide public safety network VIRVE is saving lives in Hirvonen's hospital. Don't let myths about what TETRA can and can't do keep your organisation from efficiently delivering care when and where it's most needed.

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