Each year, more than 500,000 nurses and home healthcare providers are victims of violent crimes. The unique risks that accompany an industry filled with late-night house calls, solo patient visits, and potentially volatile clients mean that home healthcare workers are almost four times as likely to experience violence while on the job than other working professionals.

How can these risks be mitigated?

The answer may be, in part, in emerging GPS technology.

According to a new survey that gauged employee attitudes about workplace GPS tracking, more than two-thirds of employees indicated that safety is one of the most compelling benefits they saw from GPS tracking.

It’s information that healthcare providers — particularly home healthcare providers — would do well to take note of in their efforts to prioritize job safety and morale. While the stereotype of “big brother” certainly exists to some degree when it comes to mobile GPS tracking, the same survey revealed that fears about employers using an “eye in the sky” to monitor employee whereabouts ranked dead last on employees’ lists of potential concerns (data drain and battery drain were the top concerns).

Workplace GPS tracking can improve safety for employees in healthcare in all of the following ways:

Target Dispatch in Emergency Situations

GPS allows employers to pinpoint healthcare employees’ locations, as well as quickly send out a call for help to a location if employees aren’t responding or are believed to be in a dangerous situation. Some healthcare providers are experimenting with GPS and an emergency “call” button combined.

Keep Tabs on Employee Tasks and Jobs in Real Time

GPS typically combines forces with time tracking, giving employers and managers a real-time picture of whether or not employees’ routine aligns with the schedule. Not only does this allow employers and employees to improve accountability and transparency, but it can also alert employers or managers to a potentially dangerous situation if a job that usually takes 15 minutes has taken 30 without warning.

Create a Big Picture of Minor Incident Reports to Identify Red Flags

Often, minor incidents can be a strong indicator of future emergencies or violence. GPS combined with time tracking can provide a powerful resource to easily take a big-picture view of where minor incidents are occurring, which areas seem to be the most problematic, and which homes need to be visited with backup and an extra eye for safety. With GPS and time tracking, employee notes of any incidents or problems experienced on the job can easily be linked to specific locations, clients, areas, and times of day — then analyzed en masse to determine a course of action to improve safety.

Legal Protection From Unfounded Complaints or Accusations

Unfortunately, there will be times where a dispute arises about what took place during a client visit, with a customer or at a particular location. GPS can be a valuable tool to verify locations during the time frame in which the problem occurred — protecting employees and employers from legal fallout. With time tracking that allows employees to easily document when they are switching tasks and clocking in or out, plus GPS stamping, it’s easier to get a reliable picture of the facts long after the situation in question has taken place.

Safety is a top priority for the healthcare industry. GPS can mitigate many of the hurdles employers and managers encounter with a mobile workforce that’s spread across multiple ever-changing locations. And recognizing that many presumed concerns about GPS tracking in the workplace (e.g., “big brother”) are not nearly as concerning to employees as some employers have assumed, it might just be the ticket to introducing a potentially life-saving technology.

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Noelle works for the employee time tracking company TSheets, based in Boise, Idaho. She has degrees in Spanish translation and editing, which paved the way for a career in marketing.

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