Monday, March 21, 2016

Aruba Beacons: a shot in the arm for patient experience

We've come to expect the worst when stepping into a new hospital, and I'm not talking about the dizzying nausea of last season's flu bug. Sure, being sick or hurt is already ruining your day, but add to that the pain of a long lobby wait in a hard plastic chair and navigating a maze of hallways to reach wherever lab 4b is, and you've got the makings of a Snickers commercial starring Joe Pesci.

Bluetooth low energy beacons are making things better.

We first wrote about this technology when Aruba released their beacon solution back in 2014. The beacons are wireless devices about half the size of a hockey puck and placed every 10-25 feet throughout a building. They communicate with and track other mobile devices connecting with Bluetooth via a custom app. This communication allows users to effectively navigate through buildings, locate their colleagues, and automatically trigger other events (like turning nearby lights on / off) based on their location.

We can imagine all kinds of uses for this tech, but healthcare in particular has stumbled upon 3 key benefits of beacon technology.

Happier Patients
Of course, we all strive to satisfy our customers, but with healthcare, the importance of a positive patient experience is especially critical. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions that base government compensation in part on survey feedback that measures and scores overall patient satisfaction when engaging with a given provider. Beacons allow hospitals to effectively engage with their patients through their smart phones, providing navigation through their facilities and real-time updates on wait times. As patients experience this level of engagement, they feel considered and cared for a higher level than before, which leads to higher survey ratings. For healthcare providers, a mobile-savvy patient experience relates directly to increased revenue dollars.

Streamlined Collaboration
These beacons impact healthcare on more fronts than just the patient's engagement - they mean a lot to staff, too. Because mobile device locations are continuously tracked in a beacon environment, nurses and doctors can quickly see which of their colleagues are at work and where they are. Because another aspect of compensation for healthcare providers is based on results, not just the time spent with a patient, physicians need to perform efficiently to accurately diagnose and treat patients, which demands seamless collaboration.

Keeping Patient Data Secure
Anyone who's ever shared an office space with others knows what it's like to share IT resources. In healthcare, printers are a sore spot of sharing due to the risk of sensitive patient information being unnecessarily shared with others. Doctors have to walk all over hospitals, and they are rarely right next to a printer when they need information. This leads to protected health information sitting in printer trays, sometimes for hours at a time until it gets collected. Beacons have been used to eliminate that risk. Doctors can hold print jobs in a list on their phone, and print them when the beacons sense they are within an acceptable range of a printer.

The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possible applications of location analytics, and already, the benefits for healthcare alone are significant. As the next generation of patients engages with healthcare, they will look more favorably on organizations that value a mobile option for that engagement, and as current compensation structures emphasize patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes, building healthcare IT infrastructures to contribute towards those results is a practical step. The hospitals of the future will do well to embrace these trends.

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