Recent articles report that every hospital and GP surgery in England is likely to start providing free Wi-Fi in a move by the NHS (National Healthcare System in England) to keep patients entertained and help doctors and nurses use much more technology in their work.
The government’s National Information Board (NIB) has commissioned a feasibility study into the viability of turning the whole NHS estate in the country into a massive free Wi-Fi zone.
It would end the situation by which some hospitals charge patients to access Wi-Fi during their stay, others provide it free, but only in certain wards, and some do not offer the service at all.
Imagine a hospital in which wireless technology enables healthcare professionals and their patients to roam anywhere throughout the facility while providing continuous, accurate, and real-time monitoring.That is a vision that can only become reality through the complete integration of Wi-Fi technology into the hospital’s systems. But it’s only the beginning. “Connected Hospitals” have much more to offer patients and hospital administrators.
Wi-Fi and Connected Devices Can Improve Patient Care
The healthcare industry does an excellent job at using technology to support new and advanced medical treatment. However, hospitals can also use Wi-Fi to improve health outcomes for patients as well as their overall experience while in the facility.
The first obvious area to exploit the power and functionality of Wi-Fi is with connected devices. Such devices include 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 data source that update a patient’s electronic medical records.
Doctors and nurses carrying tablets or other types of smart devices can then immediately access a patient’s medical records wherever they are in the hospital. They don’t have to waste time searching through paper files or locating a computer terminal to retrieve and enter medical information. This helps them deliver services more efficiently and improves patient care.
“Wi-Fi offers the opportunity for remote monitoring of patients along with electronic prescribing through portable devices, bringing clinical information directly to the relevant people. Where used, it dramatically reduces errors and increases efficiency.”
Additionally, when patients have access to Wi-Fi, they are able to stay connected with the outside world. Instead of feeling isolated in their hospital room, patients can connect with friends and family through social media and access entertainment just as they would if they were at home. Even though a hospital room may have a television and telephone, the average patient has become accustomed to easy Internet access through their smart device. When hospitals provide this level of access, they are improving the overall patient experience.
Wi-Fi Supports Wayfinding on Hospital Campuses
Wayfinding technology can use Wi-Fi signals to help patients and visitors who struggle with navigating hospital campuses. Many hospitals have buildings spread across vast campuses. Once patients and visitors have found parking, they must then locate the correct building. Next, they must find the right floor, office number, room number, or desk to make their appointment or visit a loved one.
By placing beacons in strategic locations, the hospital can create a helpful wayfinding network. Using a customized mobile app, a hospital could communicate with a patient’s smartphone or other device. The app can also provide easy-to-understand directions to food vendors, water fountains, restrooms, the gift shop, and the hospital pharmacy.
One of the major benefits of using Wi-Fi wayfinding is that it gives the hospital’s administration a treasure trove of data about the movement of people throughout their hospital. They can collect data about where people are in each facility, where people 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 could help hospital administrators understand how their hospital functions.
Wi-Fi Helps Track & Monitor Medical Equipment
Hospital administrators can also use Wi-Fi to monitor and track medical equipment. For examples, simply equipping a wheel chair or other piece of mobile equipment gives administrators 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.
The Future of Wi-Fi in Hospitals
If hospitals are to fully leverage the many benefits of deploying Wi-Fi throughout their facilities, they must focus on improving the capacity and stability of their Wi-Fi infrastructure. Many of the forward-thinking hospitals have already begun the process of improving the integration of their equipment and services with Wi-Fi. As the Wi-Fi-related technology continues to improves, the healthcare industry will find new and more creative ways to use the technology to improve patient care and streamline hospital management.