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When the Behavioral Wellness Center (BeWell) approached ROAR with data indicating a concerning rise in workplace violence, we saw the ideal opportunity to put our panic button solution into action. Beginning with a 3-month pilot, the initial results showed a 39% reduction in incidents between patients and staff and a significant upswing in staff peace of mind.
Here, we explore how our collaboration changed the narrative for BeWell and how our panic button systems have made the facility a safer and more appealing place to work.
The history of the BeWell, formerly known as the Girard Medical Center, goes all the way back to 1896. It opened as a Children’s Homeopathic Hospital in Philadelphia and the Behavioral Wellness Center became an independent entity in 2016.
Placing itself firmly at the forefront of innovation in the provision of treatment services for individuals with substance use and mental health challenges, BeWell works closely with the City of Philadelphia to serve its citizens, and alongside a range of other programs and facilities, delivers clinical support and treatment for those experiencing addiction and mental health challenges associated substance abuse and dependence.
Twenty-five percent of nurses experience workplace violence each year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the healthcare sector makes up just 9 percent of the overall U.S. workforce, it experiences nearly as many violent injuries as all other industries combined. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, incidents of workplace violence are 5x more common in healthcare than in the private industry. Most assaults come from patients and their families, and violence is assumed to be part of the job. “There’s this pent-up rise of incivility. We’re more on edge than we’ve ever been. There’s increased yelling, harassment, and abuse,” said ROAR CEO and Co-founder Yasmine Mustafa.
Violent incidents towards staff from aggressive patients within healthcare facilities are well documented across the sector, however, the demands of the Covid-19 pandemic have seen a sharp increase in these antisocial behaviors. The BeWell facilities are no exception to this phenomenon. The potential for violent incidents is particularly high with a male-prominent resident dynamic, some of whom have been court-ordered to attend rehab.
Many healthcare facilities are already looking to tackle this concerning rise in violence and unruly or irate behavior as a matter of priority, first and foremost for the physical safety of staff while on duty. However, the impact on a workforce that is overworked and understaffed due to the pandemic has also taken a significant toll on the well-being of nurses and technicians, leading to further pressure on staffing levels due to sickness and recruiting challenges.
Traditionally, CCTV has been one of the most relied-upon technologies to combat these issues. However, with the need for constant real-time monitoring combined with the architectural challenges found within the layout of the facility, BeWell discovered that patients exploited blind spots. This led to unexpected aggression against staff occurring out of sight of both CCTV and staff.
Added to this was a common but old-fashioned incident response process that relied on the phone network and a set of codes relayed to security personnel. Not only did this system take too long to report critical incidents that required instant intervention (if someone was around or was able to do so in the first place), but having learned the codes over time, it also alerted patients to the staff member reporting the incident, potentially escalating the situation further.
Combined, these factors compelled BeWell to look at alternative approaches to staff safety through more robust incident reporting, response, and de-escalation procedures, as well as improving staff well-being by reducing violent incidents and ensuring a safe workplace for nurses and technicians in the future.
For BeWell, the need for a fresh perspective on tackling this rise in violent incidents, the associated increase in workers' comp claims, and the longstanding issues underpinning the problem was clear. More CCTV cameras were not an option, and increasing security and nursing staff numbers would be difficult in a challenging employment market.
Doug Maier, CFO of BeWell, was aware of these issues, highlighting the challenges posed by both insufficient staffing and the need to work closely with clients. "Oftentimes, our nurses and mental health workers were working one-to-one with a client. If a client becomes physically abusive or a danger to themselves, and one person is in the room..."
Fundamentally, BeWell required a system that could 1) improve incident response times and enable staff to call for help to de-escalate situations by alerting security and other staff members to potential aggression quickly, and 2) reduce the severity of an incident. This helped BeWell with staffing, as fewer employee injuries meant an increased likelihood of having more employees onsite.
Additionally, the system needed to be discrete to ensure patients would not be further agitated by staff reporting incidents as they developed, simultaneously providing increased peace of mind for nurses and technicians who could rely on a security system that worked in tandem with CCTV and existing protocols.
Rising to the challenge, the first step in our response was to evaluate our workplace panic button solution and determine its feasibility within a psychiatric and addiction services setting. During this process, we also looked at BeWell’s very specific challenges, both across existing security protocols and within the physical facility itself.
Subsequently, this allowed us to identify where improvements could be made, as well as draw up a comprehensive plan on how, where, and when our panic button system could be best implemented to make improvements. Once this process was complete, we integrated the panic button system within the BeWell Center itself, providing training to staff to ensure familiarity with wireless panic button technology as well as carefully considering the impacts and interactions of patients within the facility.
"Like most healthcare facilities, BeWell has buttons on walls, but the downside of a static panic button is, you have to be there to push it. A wearable button, however, goes wherever you are," stated Yasmine Mustafa, CEO & Co-founder of ROAR.
This meant placing in-room equipment out of sight of patients, securing unique, patented, battery-powered BLE transceivers (“beacons”) to ceilings to prevent removal and potential weaponizing of the equipment, installing domes around our beacons to avoid them from being used as ligatures, as well as signs posted throughout the facility informing patients that staff were fitted with portable safety devices.
The results of the BeWell pilot were overwhelmingly positive, with staff satisfaction increasing from 57% to 73% once it was complete. Reductions in monthly incidents between staff and patients went down by a massive 39%, comparing the pilot period with the same period the prior year. Equally, monthly workers' compensation claims went down by 24%. Using their historic claims rate, this represented a less than 6-month ROI for the project’s implementation.
Here, BeWell’s “Hero Metric”, measured by faster response times that reduced the severity of incidents, was key to the results. This meant staff not only felt safer but also took fewer days off work as a result of violent incidents that had the potential to cause both physical and physiological harm. In other words, they were safer.
Finally, the BeWell pilot was approached from a collaborative perspective, with pre-and post-pilot employee surveys, regular check-ins, participating in their monthly safety meetings, and data reviews on incident numbers, response times, incident types, workers’ comp claims, and costs as well as overall staff and general feedback that led to continuous improvement in ROAR’s staff safety implementation.
The results were so compelling that within 90 days of the completion of the pilot, BeWell ordered implementation across the remainder of their clinical spaces. Partly, this decision was made through its proven success within the center, but as Doug Maier also pointed out, "So much of the work is prevention. Having these devices is like having a big security guard popping up out of nowhere. A mental health worker told me a client was acting up and they pointed to their button and said, You see this? Don’t make me do it. In addition, ROAR influences those families as to where they should send their relative who has a medical or psychiatric need” —paving the way for more efficient and effective healthcare for patients at the BeWell center, while also increasing safety and security for both staff and clients.
For more information on ROAR’s wireless panic button solution and how it can be implemented in your setting, contact a member of the team today.