Would Benchmarking Call Response Times Benefit Senior Living Communities?

As you can imagine, call response time tracking is an important part of our business at Vigil Health Solutions. Our system, like many other current nurse call systems, records each call time as well as the cancel time in a database so users can see how long staff is taking to respond to calls.

In theory, this is useful information that could be applied to aid in staffing allocation, measuring resident satisfaction and other performance indicators. In reality, it raises the question: is call response time important to your business?

The Raw Data

Looking at raw data from over 500 systems, Vigil is able to analyze the average response times. We typically see an average response time of 8 minutes (for calls that are not related to system supervision). The top 10% of sites are averaging a 2-minute response time. You may wonder how this compares to industry averages. So did we.

Interestingly enough there doesn’t appear to be any data showing industry averages or even industry expectations for response times to call systems. A few studies analyzing response times have been done in hospital environments in the past but not in senior living. Granted systems that have the ability to track this data are relatively new (if you call 1998 new). But more importantly, there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of regulations or industry benchmarks specifically related to call system response times.

#1 Complaint

A review of nursing home complaints submitted via the National Ombudsman Reporting System (2003) revealed that “the number one complaint of long-term care residents is failure of staff to respond to call lights or requests by residents for assistance.”

Contributing Factors

Some may argue that response times alone are not sufficient to measure resident care. There are, of course, a variety of valid reasons for longer call response times, which include staffing shortages, unmanageable call volume, and high acuity levels of residents.

Staff may argue that their first priority when entering a resident room is to tend to the resident and not to push a cancel button on the wall. How much does this skew the response times and should they do anything differently?

Others suggest that call systems only disrupt caregivers and nurses and that measures should be taken to reduce the call volume. One such study suggests that frequent rounding (i.e., no longer than an hour between rounds) is more effective at increasing resident satisfaction and reducing call volume.

Fewer Falls

Some studies have shown a slight decrease in the number of falls associated with faster call system response times. Our partners are often looking for ways to reduce falls, could faster response times simply be the answer? In a 2010 study, authors Zeng and Yin mention that in relation to a falls prevention program, the aim for response time would be less than one minute. Is that even possible?

Do you use call response times as a metric in evaluating resident satisfaction? If you did would you be surprised at the results? Where do you think your community falls with regard to the 8-minute average?

Originally posted on Senior Housing Forum 12/17/2015