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WiFi is such an accepted part of daily life that it’s soon to become the norm in healthcare settings such as GP surgeries, walk-in health centres, and dentists.

The primary reason behind this is the government’s commitment to creating a ‘digital and paperless’ NHS by 2020, where every building will be equipped with free public WiFi.

With a £1bn tech fund already agreed by Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, the wireless internet revolution is set to change the healthcare sector as we know it.

So what benefits can healthcare organisations get from investing in a WiFi solution?

Improved patient satisfaction

Improving patient satisfaction is massively important for healthcare providers. But the problem for many is creating a feedback system that captures what the public actually thinks about their service and what concerns, if any, they may have.

Raising awareness of online surveys and making it simple for patients to access them is the key to real-time feedback. To help achieve this, practices can offer free WiFi access in exchange for completing their questionnaires. Moving away from paper-based patient surveys offers the ability to obtain accurate data, allowing stakeholders to study patterns and highlight areas that need improvement.

Effective WiFi communication with patients

Providing free guest WiFi can help ensure patients have visibility of important messages, such as surgery closures, holiday opening times and telephone number changes, that may otherwise not be seen. This can be done by directing users to customised ‘splash pages’, which are branded by the healthcare practice, as soon as they connect to the WiFi.

The solution can also be used to deliver highly targeted and patient-specific information such as vaccination reminders, repeat prescription information, dates for follow-up appointments and, for dentists in particular, special offers.

Enhanced waiting room experience

For the average person, visiting their GP or dentist is by no means an enjoyable experience, even at the best of times. But add even a one minute delay to a patient’s appointment and the waiting room can often turn into a very hostile environment full of frustrated people.

It’s no secret that longer than anticipated stays are associated with lower patient satisfaction. However, keeping patients occupied with access to on-site WiFi can help to improve the visitor’s experience, whether they’re delayed or not. By allow patients to browse the web, healthcare organisations can help make them feel more comfortable and lower the chances of them making a complaint.

Immediate ‘anywhere’ access to patient history

An electronic health record (EHR) is arguably one of the most powerful tools available to healthcare professionals, especially during emergency situations. 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.

Unfortunately, it can take up to nine minutes to access EHRs in a wired network environment. It 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. In comparison, using WiFi grants professionals immediate access to a patient’s medical history from their mobile device, no matter where they are in the building. In some situations, this can be the difference between life and death.

Facilitate remote consultations

Remote appointments between GPs and patients with non-emergency conditions, carried out using video conferencing software, are becoming ever more common. WiFi allows medical professionals, in possession of a tablet or iPad, to meet their appointment schedule even when not physically present on site.

The benefits of this are wide-ranging, from saving valuable practice budget to boosting patient satisfaction. For example, elderly patients in need of a check-up are not forced to make a potentially difficult journey to the clinic; patients with work commitments don’t have to book time off; and during a flu outbreak doctors can advise patients remotely, rather than risking them infecting others by visiting the surgery.

Increase workforce mobility

From a staff perspective, wireless connectivity is invaluable. The ability to make use of mobile devices, such as laptops, tablets or iPads can have a dramatic impact on the quality of care patients receive while helping to streamline numerous processes.

Almost all workers in a healthcare environment have a requirement to be highly mobile, often at a moment’s notice. In a wireless environment, staff are no longer bound to wired workstations but can move freely from place to place and task to task without interruption.

So, as you can see the increasing availability and potential of WiFi is already changing healthcare as we know it today. Whether it’s improving the patient experience or helping reduce staff workload, wireless internet access is becoming a ‘must-have’ for GP surgeries, walk-in health centres and dentists.

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