Yolanta Gill of European Electronique on how wireless solutions can boost productivity by enhancing the way clinicians work
The NHS has faced a huge amount of pressure over the past few years, with trusts being tasked to deliver £20billion of savings by 2015, but at the same time improving patient care and experience. In this article, YOLANTA GILL, chief executive of European Electronique, looks at how the use of wireless technology is enabling hospitals to boost productivity by enhancing the way clinicians work
The NHS, like many other organisations, has had to look for ways of reducing spending and increasing productivity and the quality of care. Technology has played a huge role in recent years in allowing both clinicians and hospital management to perform their duties in different and more effective ways.
While some staff may be interested in the technical specifications and internet speed etc, most will just want to be convinced that it will work properly and make their daily lives easier
Take Wi-Fi, for example: many businesses would be lost without it, but for hospitals, it hasn’t always been a given. A high-performing wireless local area network (WLAN) can positively impact on a variety of hospital administration functions. With the increasing reliance on new medical applications such as CIS, e-Prescribing, PACs, EPR and many others, connectivity to these systems is required from a variety of devices, many where the only access method is wireless.
With more and more hospitals investing in high-performing wireless connections, this has allowed clinicians and other hospital workers to access important data from mobile devices in any part of the building. When it comes to hospital data, patient records are vitally important: losing records or misrecording a prescription of medication dosage can literally be a life or death situation in some cases. For that reason, when doctors are accessing patients’ records to decide on the best course treatment, it is essential that all information is accurate and up to date. There are also a huge range of medical specific applications dedicated to the health sector which can help improve patient care.
If clinicians are able to sit at the patient’s bedside and input information into their tablet devices or laptops relating to observations, symptoms, prescriptions, the risk of miswriting or misinterpreting records is greatly reduced. It also makes record keeping more streamlined and saves time by removing the need for repeat visits to extract or input data onto a desktop computer. In addition, doctors can place pharmacy orders and dispatch discharge letters to GPs straight from the bedside.
For Ashford and St Peter’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, a high-speed wireless solution across the trust helped increase productivity by 25%, provided a 32% reduction in travel times and enabled 98% of patient and clinical record updates to be completed on the day, compared to manual transcriptions, which had previously taken 48 hours.
Many of the UK’s hospitals are sprawling buildings that date back to the early part of the 20th Century. With endless corridors, cubbyholes and storeys, it can be mission impossible to locate certain equipment, even spare beds, quickly and easily. High-performing Wi-Fi makes it possible to implement a Real Time Location System (RTLS), meaning equipment can be tagged and tracked within an accuracy of three metres. This can save valuable time for both clinicians and hospital porters, particularly in an emergency or time-sensitive situation. Individual WLAN tags can help ensure expensive equipment isn’t lost or stolen and can also flag up equipment that requires a service.
Being able to access and add to records quickly at the patient’s bedside, not only is the administrative burden reduced, but it also enables clinicians to deliver the best possible care by reducing human error and speeding up treatment plans
In addition to equipment, some hospitals, particularly mental health establishments, have used this tracking technology to protect and manage vulnerable patients. Tagging individual patients who are at risk can help hospital staff monitor the flow of patients between operations and en route to other procedures. In the case of elderly or mentally ill patients who are tagged, if they go near hospital doors, sensors detect the tag and automatically lock, keeping the patient out of harm’s way.
Funding for the NHS is on a ‘follow me’ basis – patients now have a choice of where their treatment takes place. In the increasingly digital world, internet access is taken for granted. Many successful NHS trusts offer free wireless and internet connectivity to patients, which makes them more attractive for treatment, and subsequently increases income and revenue. Providing patient access can present challenges, but with the wide array of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) solutions on the market, these can be addressed easily and cost effectively.
For IT decision-makers, implementing high-speed wireless access is an important investment to consider. Before implementing a wireless network, it is always best to involve clinicians and other hospital workers and focus on the desired outcomes; how would it enable them to do their jobs more effectively? While some staff may be interested in the technical specifications and internet speed etc, most will just want to be convinced that it will work properly and make their daily lives easier. Many hospitals are currently seeing the difference that a high-performing wireless network makes. By being able to access and add to records quickly at the patient’s bedside, not only is the administrative burden reduced, but it also enables clinicians to deliver the best possible care by reducing human error and speeding up treatment plans.