“You’ll never guess who I had in my waiting room the other day…”
How free WiFi is set to change the face of community healthcare delivery
KIM Kardashian, Donald Trump, Stephen Fry: healthcare waiting rooms have never been so eclectic.
As unlikely as it seems, surgeries, outpatient clinics, and dental practices up and down Britain are a buzzing haven of popular culture and politics.
Or at least they soon will be.
Not that they are likely to play physical host to an array of household names.
GPs and their staff should not be bracing themselves for a flood of famous faces.
Pressure on services is acute enough, without the added distraction of Little Mix fighting over the Readers’ Digests.
No, this melting pot of personalities are now ever-presents in our lives via social media and the worldwide web, on our phones and tablets.
And – as a result of a government mandate, backed-up with the money to make it happen – all healthcare providers must ensure fast, robust and secure connectivity for everyone by the end of this year.
It presents a significant opportunity for Clinical Commissioning Groups which experts say will positively transform patient experience.
NHS Digital’s own mission statement sums it up: “Enabling patients who are receiving care to be better connected, by providing free wireless access across the NHS, and progressively supporting health and care professionals to have access to services, tools and technologies to deliver better care”.
In short, WiFi is now a staple (think water, gas, electricity), and the benefits are everywhere.
“It’s about improving patient satisfaction, improving access to healthcare information, and reducing costs,” says WiFi expert Richard Beeston of the UK’s largest independent provider of B2B communications, IT and cloud Services, Daisy Group; which is now rolling-out a nationwide healthcare-specific WiFi solution.
“WiFi is such an accepted part of daily life and people expect it everywhere. But healthcare providers should see past the obvious patient advantages such as them being able to browse Facebook whilst they wait for their consultation to begin. It’s also about the capture and use of vitally-important data that can be used to everyone’s advantage.”
That means stakeholders able to study patterns and highlight areas that need improvement; patients having visibility of important messages, such as surgery closures, holiday opening times and telephone number changes; and customised ‘splash pages’, branded by the healthcare practice and delivering highly-targeted information such as vaccination reminders, repeat prescription information, and dates for follow-up appointments.
And, perhaps most-crucially of all, it means immediate ‘anywhere’ access by staff to patient history.
“An electronic health record (EHR) is arguably one of the most powerful tools available to healthcare professionals,” says Beeston.
“The ability for staff to wirelessly access patient information, via a private and secure WiFi connection, can dramatically increase the chances of a successful diagnosis. Doing that via a wired network can take several minutes and often involves accessing a desktop PC, searching for the patient’s records, sending them to print and then physically carrying the paperwork to where it is needed.”
But it’s in the area of ‘remote consulting’ where WiFi can have the greatest impact on cost and efficiency.
Clinicians deploying easy-to-use video conferencing software such as Skype can turn their tablet or iPad into their consulting room with just a few clicks.
“It’s just WiFi, but it provides the gateway to so much more too,” concludes Beeston. And that’s what makes it TRULY transformational.”
The Daisy Group