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5 Reasons to Utilise Beacon Technology in Healthcare

5 Reasons to Utilise Beacon Technology in Healthcare

Beacon technology is only beginning to gain traction as an adequate way to send and receive localised information in health, retail and corporate industries - but we're still seeing quite a bit of apprehension, particularly in Australia.

For those reading that aren't familiar with the concept of beacon technology - it's essentially the use of small devices (beacons) that communicate with mobile apps on smartphones over a short distance, and offer highly contextualised information based on location.

The way beacons can be applied across various sectors is essentially limitless and offers a way to creatively and dynamically communicate with your audience. This freedom, along with the push to create more personalised healthcare is why we're so interested in how and why beacons should be implemented in healthcare settings.

Below we've listed some reasons and ways to utilise beacon technology in a healthcare environment.

1. Personalisation

First and foremost, beacons allow for personalisation. Many people that work in healthcare, specifically in eHealth have received comments that patients wish to be remembered, treated with respect and have individualised healthcare. Depending on the data available to the system, beacons have the ability to send customised and relevant content to a patient on their smartphone. This personalised, one-on-one communication may ease anxiety and stress in a patient by having them feel as though they're being looked after as soon as they enter the building.

2. Internal Communication

Beacons aren't just a great way to communicate with patients and visitors - they can be used in a healthcare setting to communicate with staff in various ways. An example of this may be a pop-up reminder in the change room of the surgical ward reminding staff to wash their hands thoroughly before continuing through to the actual ward. Another possible use may be that in a hospital-wide event, such as a Code Purple or Code Red (relates to bomb threat or fire hazard in Australia) all staff will immediately be notified on their devices and can action accordingly.

Having connected internal communications has shown to boost morale of staff within healthcare environments, and beacons can only enhance this.

3. Analytics

Interactive digital systems in healthcare are always a great resource for collecting data & analytics. Not only can reports be generated by the frequency of interaction, but feedback and additional data can be gained with beacons by having them send a push notification to a device asking them about their experience, or how they are currently feeling.

Due to how location-based beacons are - feedback and data can be gathered from individual departments and wards.

4. Admission & Check-Ins

This potential use for beacons has multiple benefits at play. Using beacon technology for admissions and check-in's allows for better queing systems by alerting a patient as they enter the room about which line or desk they should attend, and which documents they should have prepared for when they are seen to.

Generally when you enter an emergency department there are multiple lines that patients are to attend in a particular order and static signage may not be visible or obvious to the viewer. Having your phone buzz with messages such as, 'Please attend triage nurse immediately upon entry.' or 'If you are experiences the following symptoms, please notify staff immediately...' can potentially speed up processes or potentially save lives due to the message being immediately apparant.

Additionally, there is the possibility that patients may be able to fill out any necessary forms on their personal devices while they wait to be seen - which allows for more accurate data input, and a reduction in perceived wait times.

5. Wayfinding

We've touched on the necessity of more efficient wayfinding in healthcare environments before and interactive wayfinding directories are a highly used, popular system of ours. However; we believe that the use of beacons could make wayfinding even more efficient. 

As long as a patient has the associated smartphone app, they can receive a facility map, or detailed wayfinding instructions directly on their phone. This may be particularly useful if there is no immediate access to a directory. 

Beacons can be set up in a triangulated fashion so that if, for example, a patient or visitor came to a T-intersection on a particular floor, the beacons can pick the signal of their smartphone and send a push notification to the device saying something along the lines of, 'Birth Suite A - turn left. Sterilisation Services - turn right.

To create further interaction and connection - beacon technology and augmented reality can be combined to create an interactive wayfinding system. Simply open the application and a wayfinding arrow will appear, directing the user to their desired location based on their position. This arrow will change direction as the user moves about the hospital. 

The use of beacons + augmented reality wayfinding systems can and have been used in the past to help users locate wards, offices, toilets and even emergency equipment such as defibrilators and fire extinguishers. With these technologies at hand, the possibilities are endless.

Another benefit to using beacons as a means of communication is that hospital and clinic marketing and promotions can be sent directly to patients. Whether it's a reminder to get the most recent flu vaccination or a message for donations - these messages can be managed based on time, season and of course - location. 

As beacons run on the same frequency as wireless networks, Faraday cages both intentional and unintentional will disrupt the trasmission of signals to and from the beacons - so planning and trial and error of beacon location is necessary. 

We believe the greatest thing about the use of beacon technology in a healthcare environment is that it can enable a more connected experience for staff and patients alike, as well empowering people to take further control of their own healthcare.

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