Wi-Fi® May Help Alleviate Nurses' Troubles

Mon, 02/18/2013 - 09:25

According to a 2012 study conducted by Spyglass Consulting®, there are 2.9 million registered working nurses in the United States. While that may sound like a large number, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a projected shortage of 260,000 nurses to meet health care demands by 2025. Most of this shortage originates not from a lack of interested candidates in the nursing field but rather a demographic shift in retiring nurses. The Bureau of Health Professions 2012 report indicates that 44.7% of the current RN population is over the age of 50. The evolving demographics of the RN population reveal unmet needs for change in processes and technology within hospitals.

Nurses in hospitals often work in high-stress environments. Adding to the stress is the fact that many of the processes that nurses follow are inefficient, paper-based processes.

Nurses are eager to “go electronic”.  According to the research from Spyglass Consulting®, 69% of nurses interviewed acknowledged using their personal smartphones during work, with at least some of the usage for clinical communications.

A white paper titled, The Impact of Failed Communication on Patient Safety and Satisfaction, clarifies how nurses face communication issues every day. This can be very frustrating as the tools for effective communication already exist; many nurses use them in their personal lives, whether in the form of smartphones, tablets, or laptops. However, while working in complex environment such as a hospital day in and day out, tolerating outdated communication technology is extremely difficult.

In addition, nurses are open to the idea of using tablets or handheld computers to support bedside nursing. By facilitating mobile technology in a hospital, nurses are able to deliver better care and minimize the risk of mistakes, as the latest patient information is automatically updated to the electronic medical records. For more information on electronic medical records and what is known as an MDDS, or medical device data system, read our Interview with DocBox, Inc.® CTO Tracy Rausch.

Wi-Fi® is a widely accepted technology for connecting smartphones, tablets, handhelds, and medical devices to a network. Hospital IT has responsibility for ensuring that a hospital’s Wi-Fi networks meet the requirements of all users, including nurses. As the number of devices on hospitals Wi-Fi networks increases, so do the challenges with ensuring reliable and secure connectivity for those devices so that nurses and other users fully realize the benefits of Wi-Fi technology in hospitals. Some of the benefits of Medical-grade Wi-Fi include:

  • Fewer data-entry errors as patient information is entered directly from the bedside
  • With reduced error means potentially fewer lawsuits and reduced costs
  • More efficient organization of patient information, available anytime and anywhere to qualified staff
  • Secure sensitive patient information
  • Up-to-date electronic health records
  • More efficient communication between nurses and other staff
  • Ability of medical devices to communicate between each other for managing ideal patient vitals

The adoption of Wi-Fi technology in hospitals can be fueled by following best practices and learning from the experiences and “success stories” of other hospitals, where the above benefits are not just theories but realized each day.

In addition, the study reports that 25% of nurses surveyed were dissatisfied with the quality and reliability of the wireless network within their facilities.

What do you think IT can do to improve nurses’ satisfaction with hospital Wi-Fi networks?

For more information on Wi-Fi in hospitals, read the Wi-Fi Alliance white papers, Wi-Fi® in Healthcare: Security Solutions for Hospital Wi-Fi Networks (2012) and Wi-Fi® in Healthcare: The Solution for Growing Hospital Communication Needs (2011).

What are your views on Wi-Fi technology being used in hospitals?