From tablets and medical devices to everything connected to the Internet of Things (IoT), a radical shift is taking place from wired to wireless devices in hospitals. These innovations are making incredible improvements to the quality of patient care, and place hospitals that use them squarely on the cutting edge.
But frustrations are rising among hospital staff and patients as this digital explosion puts serious pressure on legacy Wi-Fi networks, leading to frequent slowdowns and outages. An average of 15 to 20 medical devices demand network access in every hospital room – and many of them are mission critical to the health of the patients they are monitoring. The high volume of hospital visitors further strains systems by trying to connect hundreds – and in large hospitals, thousands – of personal devices daily.
In today’s increasingly connected hospital environment, a high level of productivity and efficiency can’t be achieved without fast, reliable Wi-Fi access. But more than convenience is at stake when an interruption of even a tenth of a second can put patient lives at risk.
Slow connections, lost messages, outages, and equipment malfunctions caused by faulty Wi-Fi are directly linked to patient and employee satisfaction at hospitals. And when satisfaction plummets, so does the hospital’s reputation and its ability to capitalize on market share and funding.
In an era defined by high-deductible health plans and easy access to information, patients are increasingly shopping for health care services – and not settling for anything less than the best overall experience when they need care.
A third of consumers consult friends and family for referrals before seeking medical care, and patients are quick to post unsolicited reviews of their experiences online. That means a bad experience can impact not just a single consumer but can ripple throughout an extended network of people making decisions about hospital care.
Of course, this also means consumers who have positive experiences can boost a hospital’s market share. An Accenture report found that hospitals with superior patient experience scores from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) gained net margins that averaged 50 percent higher than average-scoring providers. In fact, the analysis concluded that a hospital system with $2 billion in revenue would have to slash 460 jobs to achieve the same positive margin that improving the patient experience brings to revenue growth.
Since it was implemented in 2006, the HCAHPS standardized survey tool has carried heavyweight in the healthcare industry for measuring patients’ perspectives of hospital care. Not only are great scores published for all to see, but they are tied to reimbursement that can amount to millions of dollars from Medicare and some private insurers.
Good communication is a critical part of the HCAHPS survey – and in patients’ minds, that isn’t just about communicating with doctors and nurses. Patients depend on reliable Wi-Fi to communicate with family and friends during their stay. Not feeling isolated from the outside world – or simply being able to entertain themselves while they wait for care – is an important part of their healing process and significantly impacts how they view their hospital experience.
People see spotty Wi-Fi connection as a direct reflection on the hospital. And that can impact the hospital’s bottom line by lowering HCAHPS scores and prompting poor reviews that damage its brand. A Health Facilities Management report states that Millennials point to quality Wi-Fi as one of the top two factors that influence their decision to return to a healthcare facility.
Terrible Wi-Fi performance – or worse, outright denial of guest access – also frustrates the greater network of family members and friends who spend hours in the hospital with their loved ones, or try to contact them from other locations. As an extension of the patient – and many times, the people paying the patient’s bill – hospitals aren’t in a position to ignore their concerns.
Faulty Wi-Fi connections also reduce employee satisfaction at hospitals. For instance, doctors rely on instant communication between medical devices and Electronic Health Records (EHR) so that they can make decisions based on accurate, up-to-date information about patients. Medical devices also send data and alerts that enable nurses to monitor patients remotely from one main station, instead of wasting precious time manually collecting vital signs from up to six machines per patient.
When Wi-Fi is too slow or goes down, caregivers can’t receive critical information about patient health that can quickly lead to life-threatening situations. Poor Wi-Fi performance also hampers a hospital staff’s ability to communicate with each other, an alarming occurrence in an environment where the best patient outcomes largely depend on timely and accurate coordination.
A HealthData Management report asserts that unplanned downtime in EHR systems represents a “significant” patient safety hazard, raising the likelihood of medication errors, a lack of access to images, and canceled procedures. More than half of U.S. doctors say the health and safety of their patients have been jeopardized by an EHR system outage.
Caregivers depend on their hospital to provide the tools they need to deliver the best outcomes for their patients. It’s no surprise that consistently poor Wi-Fi would cause dissatisfaction – and with their own reputations on the line, even prompt some doctors to jump ship, bringing lucrative patient followings with them. Employee satisfaction can also be the difference between a single visit from a patient and a loyal customer relationship for a hospital.
On the flip side, employees who are engaged and satisfied with their work positively influence patient satisfaction by delivering a higher quality of patient care. Nearly 90 percent of engaged hospital employees display a genuinely caring attitude toward patients, compared to 38 percent of disengaged employees.
AMN Healthcare reports that the percentage of patients who said they would “definitely recommend” a hospital to their loved ones dropped by two percent for every 10 percent of nurses who expressed dissatisfaction with their jobs.
The service-profit relationship has been recognized for decades in other industries. But as healthcare becomes more competitive, patient satisfaction becomes increasingly important to a hospital’s bottom line.
Wi-Fi challenges put patients at risk and harm the way a hospital is perceived by patients and its staff. By automating Wi-Fi performance management, 7SIGNAL keeps hospital ecosystems connected to the quality of patient care is never affected. It reduces the time and money hospitals spend on wireless issues by troubleshooting and reporting problems that occur before helpdesk calls are ever made and the patient or caregiver gets frustrated.
Akron Children’s Hospital is just one of many clients that reported remarkable improvements after partnering with 7SIGNAL, including throughput increased by up to 110 percent, packet losses reduced by 80 percent, and retransmission reduced by more than 50 percent.
Leading hospitals are realizing that the secret to improving profitability isn’t cutting staff, but improving the satisfaction and experience of their patients. And increasingly, fast, reliable Wi-Fi access is a key piece of this puzzle.
7SIGNAL offers Wi-Fi performance management solutions that ensure connectivity issues don’t prevent hospitals from delivering exceptional patient care. Contact us to learn about becoming a 7SIGNAL Connected Hospital.