When we talk about connectivity, specifically concerning accessibility to broadband and wireless LAN optimization, we rarely think outside of residential or business use. For those individuals in an assisted living facility, next generation telecommunications may seem like the farthest thing down on the list of priorities. While this may be true for some residents, it’s not so for those charged with caring for them.
A recent Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) case study, A Wireless LAN for Today’s Assisted Living Facilities, highlights the importance of wireless connectivity for those in the healthcare industry. Whether the facility is a hospital, medical clinic or assisted living facility, wireless LAN technology is becoming critical and ubiquitous. Hospitals have increasingly deployed wireless LANs to improve the level of patient care, enhance the patient / visitor experience and increase efficiencies.
Overall, the wireless LAN not only improves the operational practices for the healthcare facility, it also lends value to their ability to provide an improved customer experience which like that provided in a hotel. With the right technology in place, healthcare staff are able to access EMRs (electronic medical records) from anywhere, leverage powerful consumer communication devices to simplify tasks and drive better efficiency, allow visitors and patients to access the Internet from anywhere within the facility and more.
Even with these benefits, those operating in the assisted living, retirement homes and nursing homes have been slower to adopt wireless LAN technology. In reality, there hasn’t been much push to deploy solutions past low capacity, coverage focused networks. With the latest trends in healthcare, however, advanced wireless LANs put in place within hospitals are also affecting these facilities.
There are three trends taking place in healthcare that are effectively demanding the implementation of advanced wireless LAN. For one, there is a widespread adoption of EMRs within assisted living facilities. This move is an attempt to eliminate paper, automate manual processes and improve overall efficiencies. E-charting is most successful when completed as close as possible to the point of care.
Second, nurses are becoming more mobile, using wireless handsets to access anything from patient charts to the network of another facility to check scheduling. They can also receive calls from patient families, members of their team on the move and doctors with information regarding an urgent matter. When integration with nurse call systems is firmly in place, nurse call buttons and in washrooms can go directly to a nurse’s phone.
Finally, residents and visitors are becoming more tech savvy and well aware when a facility is lacking the latest capabilities. It’s not uncommon for residents to expect the same level of high-speed wireless connectivity they enjoyed in their homes. Visitors expect the same thing as they’re used to connecting anywhere they go. And, as consumers continue to adopt mobile technology like smartphones and tablets, this demand will only continue to grow.
To that end, healthcare and assisted living facilities will do well to focus on improved technology deployments to ensure they have the latest capabilities to serve the patient, staff and guests. The assisted living industry is a very competitive one. Putting aside patient wellness and operational efficiencies, from a purely business perspective being able to provide residents a high quality customer experience with all of the features they are used to having at home when connected is a way for assisted living facilities to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Edited by Peter Bernstein