Editor’s note: This behavioral health – technology interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: What career experiences do you most draw from in your role today?

Mary Kay Shibley: As a behavioral health nurse with over 27 years in the industry, I have experienced firsthand the patient and staff safety challenges facing behavioral health facilities.

I have worked with behavioral health populations and other service lines throughout my career, and much of my time was spent documenting on paper. I helped implement some of the electronic health systems when they were first introduced.

I’ve witnessed how determined patients can be to harm themselves or others, which can be very challenging to manage. About 10 years ago, I served as the manager of nursing informatics for the behavioral health service line at a large healthcare system and unfortunately, we had an adverse patient event that resulted in a death.

After that incident, I was tasked with finding a solution that would make sure our staff were with our patients when performing critical 15-minute checks that are utilized in every behavioral health setting. After going through myriads of research, I came across ObservSMART; it quickly rose to the top as the best solution for our needs. Once we implemented at the first hospital, we moved on to deploy ObservSMART in two other hospitals and an emergency department.

I’ve used ObservSMART as both a clinical professional and an educator, so I’m very familiar with how it can make a difference. I bring with me all that I learned from past experiences and impart that knowledge with those facing the same challenges today. The ObservSMART technology rises to meet those challenges and is an effective way to ensure patient safety.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: What made you decide to join the ObservSMART team?

Shibley: After getting my doctorate in 2020, I was looking for a way to expand my career and better utilize my skills in nursing and leadership. I knew that ObservSMART saves lives, and I’ve always been confident that it can improve patient outcomes, ease staff workload, and provide peace of mind to leadership. It seemed like a natural fit. I am eager to take this opportunity to work with ObservSMART and make a positive impact on patient care. I’ve been there — I know what staff are facing, and I know we can help.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: How did ObservSMART make a difference for your facility, and what differences have you seen for others since working for ObservSMART?

Shibley: ObservSMART made an immediate impact at my facility. Thanks to the technology, for the first time, leaders and managers knew that staff were performing their duties and patients were being monitored. The validation offered a peace of mind that I, as a leader in behavioral health, had never experienced before in my 27-year career.

Leadership can use ObservSMART to gain compliance insights through easy-access reporting, which is not possible with the traditional paper-based system. ObservSMART gives leaders access to solid data, so they know for sure whether staff are completing their tasks. This makes a huge difference and can help identify staff who need further development and training.

After implementation, staff felt like they finally had the tools to do their job. It was fun watching them embrace it and realize they now have effective technology like every other area in health care. The data provided proof that they were doing their jobs and a sense of satisfaction knowing they were keeping patients safe.

One example where ObservSMART proved to be an invaluable asset in our facility is when a patient had gone under the bed and was attempting to harm themselves with cords they had found. Staff couldn’t see the patient, but the proximity-based technology alerted them that the patient was in the room. Without this technology, the situation may have gone unnoticed, and the patient’s life may have been in danger. It provided us with a way to ensure patient safety and prevent adverse events.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: How does the ObservSMART patient safety technology work, and what specific features does it offer to improve safety in health care settings?

Shibley: The core components of the ObservSMART system are a tamper- resistant patient wearable, staff tablet and desktop application. The main reasons that other systems fail are due to patient wearable integrity, and no proximity requirement to complete a safety check. ObservSMART’s proximity-based rounding ensures true, validated compliance of patient observations. Reminders for rounds due and late observation alerts can be sent to supervisory staff. On admission, the patient receives a patented wearable that syncs to a tablet held by the staff. The wearable and tablet pairing ensures staff and patients are together when documenting patient safety observations.

Also, ObservSMART is the only solution with a one-to-one feature that keeps staff and high acuity patients safe. When staff are monitoring a patient in a one-to-one, it’s because the patient is at high risk of either harming themselves or others. Our system allows the staff to be in a specific proximity to those patients and ensures that they always maintain that proximity. Proximities are customizable by patient. If a patient is suicidal,

or prone to falling, an arm’s length away is the standard setting. If the staff get too far away, the system will alert them and remind them that they need to get closer. If the staff does not respond, an alert will be sent to the nursing station or a supervisor, so they can intervene in real-time.

In the past, we’ve unfortunately had instances of staff members falling asleep during their shift, which can be extremely dangerous, especially during critical times when a patient could be at risk of injury or elopement. ObservSMART has been instrumental in helping us address these issues. The technology can detect when a staff member is falling asleep and will lightly chirp to try to awaken them. If the staff member doesn’t respond, supervisors are alerted so they can intervene and ensure the safety of both staff and patients.

ObservSMART’s escalation measures help everyone to be proactive in their approach to patient safety, which is always preferable to being reactive. It allows for intervention and mitigation, which can be critical in health care situations where it could mean the difference between life and death.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: What sets the ObservSMART patient safety technology apart from other rounding technologies in the market?

Shibley: Our platform was developed by two behavioral health leaders in response to an adverse event that led them to ask, “How do you make sure the staff are with their patients when they’re doing their jobs?” That is the foundation of our proximity-based observations.

ObservSMART’s patented, tamper-resistant wearable is comfortable, waterproof, has a 12-month battery life and stays on the patient until removed at discharge. Other wearables can be easily taken off or defeated. The wearable is what provides validated compliance.

We make an investment in our client’s success. When we partner
with an organization, we make sure they’re always supported. Our dedicated customer success team meets with our clients within days of implementation to go over the data, identify areas for improvement and help with staff workflow. We celebrate their success with them and work towards improvement, so they can become the best health care facility they can be. Patient safety is always critical, and we are committed to helping our clients achieve their compliance goals. This support continues throughout our entire relationship.

ObservSMART is unique in that it requires very little infrastructure, making it an ideal solution for behavioral health facilities. Other technologies often require expensive and complicated infrastructure like wires, cameras, and other equipment, which can be cost-prohibitive, intrusive, and difficult to install. Our platform only requires wearables for patients, tablets for staff, and Wi-Fi to send data. This simple setup allows for easy implementation.

With ObservSMART’s reminders, alerts, 1:1 capability, on-site training, HITRUST certification, and easy-access reporting – there’s really no comparison!


Q: Behavioral Health Business: How have things changed for behavioral health since COVID-19, and how has ObservSMART evolved to meet those challenges?

Shibley: We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of behavioral health patients due to COVID-19. I’ve talked to colleagues in different areas of health care, including emergency and med-surg departments, rehabilitation facilities and long-term care facilities; we’re all seeing this increase. ObservSMART can help support the staff to care for these patients.

We have a feature called Risk Flags that allows staff to easily identify patients who are at risk of suicide, falls, assaults, elopement, or any other concerns. These flags communicate important information to staff about each patient. During the height of the pandemic, they were customized to denote patients with Covid, who needed to remain in their rooms.

There was fear among staff in health care facilities about getting too close to patients and possibly catching COVID. Patient safety checks can be completed with ObservSMART without having to access the patient’s wrist – the patient photos and paired Bluetooth beacon gave staff two patient identifiers. We were able to adjust proximities, maintaining validated compliance, without having to get too close to patients.

With staff shortages, increased admissions, and busy schedules, ObservSMART’s reminders and alerts helped with staff efficiency and made sure crucial observations were still being completed.

We’ve introduced new modules such as Nurse Rounds and Environment of Care Rounds; these also help to significantly decrease all kinds of things like suicide, falls, patient harm events, and elopement.


Q: Behavioral Health Business: Finish this sentence: The behavioral health industry in 2023 will be the year of…

“…opportunity — for behavioral health to employ new technologies, catch up with the rest of health care and provide the best level of care for their patients.”
– Shibley


ObservSMART provides innovative solutions that support healthcare organizations with improving staff efficiency, communication, compliance, and patient safety. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your organization.

The Voices Series is a sponsored content program featuring leading executives discussing trends, topics and more shaping their industry in a question-and-answer format.
For more information on Voices, please contact sales@agingmedia.com.