Imagine a hospital in which wireless technology enables visitors, healthcare professionals and patients to roam anywhere throughout the facility, while providing continuous, accurate, and real-time monitoring. This vision can only become reality through the integration of WiFi technology as an integral part of a hospital’s IT systems. Already quite impressive you will say, and yet, this vision is in reality, only the tip of the iceberg. “Connected hospitals” have so much more to offer patients and hospital administrators.
The Benefits of Wi-Fi in Healthcare
The healthcare industry does an excellent job of making use of technology to support new and advanced medical care. However, hospitals can also use Wi-Fi to improve health outcomes for patients as well as their overall experience while in the facility.
With the right platform, hospitals can create a customized WiFi experience for each type of user: medical staff, non-medical staff, patients and visitors, each with their own level of access rights, security, bandwidth consumption and relevant features. Such tiered access can help hospitals increase staff productivity, generate new revenue streams and improve their overall patient and visitor experience.
Wi-Fi and Connected Devices Can Improve Patient Care
The first obvious area to exploit the power and functionality of Wi-Fi is with connected medical and non-medical devices. This includes smart beds, monitoring devices, and testing devices like MRI and X-ray equipment. When equipped with Wi-Fi, these devices can connect with a central database or system that automatically update patients’ electronic medical records.
Doctors and nurses carrying tablets or other types of smart devices can then directly access a patient’s medical records anywhere throughout the hospital. This feature saves them precious time not having to search through copious paper files or locating a computer terminal to retrieve and enter medical information. It further enables medical staff to provide more efficient services, enhances patient care and improves productivity.
As artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent in assisting doctors with diagnosis and treatment, the benefits of managed WiFi are compounded.
"Wi-Fi offers the opportunity for remote monitoring of patients through portable devices, bringing clinical information directly to the relevant people. Where used, it dramatically reduces errors, saves time and increases efficiency."
Adlane Fellah, Maravedis
Moreover, Wi-Fi systems may be used to push surveys to patients regarding their experience during their stay. The actionable data provided by these surveys become insights that establishments may act upon to continually improve services. The data and results obtained can also be used to improve the healthcare organization's visibility within the community and governmental bodies (think HCAHPS scores).
Generating new Revenue Streams with Tiered Access Services
Patients, and their families, are willing to pay for reliable Wi-Fi, so they can stay connected to the outside world. They can connect with friends and family through social media and access entertainment just as they would at home. Even though a hospital room may have a television and telephone, the average patient has become accustomed to seamless Internet access on their portable devices. When hospitals provide this level of access, they can potentially generate new revenue streams by charging for high-speed access and, at the same time, improving the overall patient experience. Hospitals can offer different tiers of speed and charge accordingly or provide the opportunity to make contributions to charitable foundations in exchange for internet access.
Using Wi-Fi to Track & Monitor Medical Equipment
Hospital administrators can also use Wi-Fi to monitor and track key assets such as medical equipment. For example, tagging a wheelchair or other piece of mobile asset can provide administrators with a real-time view of where that equipment is located anywhere throughout the facility. This detailed knowledge helps reduce equipment theft and misplacement. Also, knowing where equipment is being used provides administrators with useful analytics about how the hospital functions.
Indoor Positioning Systems Through Wi-Fi
Wayfinding technology uses Wi-Fi signals to help patients and visitors navigate hospital campuses. Many hospitals have buildings spread out across vast campuses. Once patients and visitors have found parking, they must then locate the correct building. Then, they must find the right floor, office number, room number, or desk to make their appointment or visit a loved one. Guiding patients and visitors can also represent a considerable unproductive use of staff time.
One of the major benefits of using a Wi-Fi Indoor positioning system is that it provides the hospital’s administration with a treasure trove of data about the movement of people throughout the hospital. They can collect data about where people are in each facility, where they tend to gather, how long it takes to move from one location to another, the average dwell time in specific locations, and other data that can help hospital administrators understand how their hospital functions.
Freeing IT Resources
Many healthcare IT teams are significantly challenged by the pace of change and increased complexity of new technologies, not to mention the various demands of other departments. The diversity and proliferation of devices, range of operating systems, security threats, new business requirements, technology lifecycle, and upcoming IoT all represent a challenge for understaffed and budget-stretched IT departments. Moreover, health institutions are not equipped with support resources to deal with the large number of Wi-Fi users’ requests, neither processing transaction through Wi-Fi, for example. Thus, hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities are increasingly resorting to outsourcing the complete management of their Wi-Fi access and infrastructure to service specialists in order to refocus their attention on managing their core business as previously discussed in this article.
Towards a Healthy Network
If healthcare institutions are to fully leverage the many benefits of deploying Wi-Fi throughout their facilities, they must first focus on improving the capacity and stability of their Wi-Fi infrastructure through trusted third-party managed service providers. Many of the more forward-thinking hospitals have already begun the process of improving the integration of their equipment and services with Wi-Fi. As Wi-Fi technology continues to improve, the healthcare industry will find new and more creative ways to harness technology to revolutionize patient care and streamline healthcare management.