The app, being developed by researchers from Binghamton University in the US, can improve communication and notification systems for nursing homes, which are often faulty and inefficient.

The proposed design integrates all of the existing safety systems at nursing homes - for example call lights, chair and bed alarms, wander guards, calling-for-help functions - and provides alerts to users, researchers said.

Through a process of iterative design and evaluation with prospective users, a final design  was well received by nursing experts in geriatric care, and at local nursing homes. An on-going evaluation study shows that using this system reduces staff response time to alarms.

"The problem associated with not responding in time is that residents tend to stand up or go to the bathroom by themselves. If they are not strong enough, they cannot support the weight. And if they have to wait, they will just get up and go. And that leads to falls," said Huiyang Li from Binghampton University.

"The improvement of notification will potentially help staff to do a better job and, eventually, improve patient safety. Whenever residents need help, they have a way to call for help, and messages will be delivered to staff in an effective way," said Li.

Most nursing homes use a call light system, where residents push a button inside of their room to send an alert, and bed and chair pads with pressure sensors that send an alert when a resident sits or stands up. When nurses are working down the hallway, they might not hear or see these alerts, researchers said.

"With our system, we provide an informative and customised message for different alarms. The message contains the resident's name, the type of alarm, the room number and the certified nursing assistants (CNAs) who is responsible," said Li.

"The smartwatch will be on the CNA's wrist, so it is accessible all the time. They can see the message, hear the alarm, and feel the vibration, whether they are working down the hallway or inside the rooms," he said.

Every CNA who uses the app sees a different display, as it is personalised to the user's specific task assignment. When CNAs start their shift, they will sign in and add their assigned residents, researchers said.

When a resident triggers an alert, a message will pop up on everyone's screen indicating who the resident is, their room number, and the type of alert (for example, an exit from a chair), they said.

"The alert message is more informative than the existing system and, at the same time, it will help nurses to prioritise. We will mark or highlight alarms from residents who are actually assigned to whoever is using the app," said Li.