Mobile technology innovations today help provide solutions to a wide variety of problems. Mobile and associated technologies like Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and beacons are positively impacting both individuals and enterprises, across diverse industries. Even in the healthcare space, mobile phones are impacting people across the entire industry, be it patients, consumers, or healthcare providers. Mobile health has become an indispensable part of today’s hyper-connected world, where physicians and patients alike are prolific mobile adopters.
Location based technologies driven by mobile are fast gaining traction in healthcare and can be harnessed for a host of functions like, keeping tabs on devices, assets and patients. iBeacon technology is among the most effective and efficient solutions that can be deployed in the healthcare space today for a wide variety of location based applications.
Benefits of deploying beacons in healthcare
Beacons can be used across the length and breadth of medical operations. Some of the most popular use cases that create significant value are as follows:
1. Personalisation – Beacons have the ability to customise health content according to a patient or healthcare provider’s mobile phone history and current health information. Such personalisation enables direct one to one conversations that are highly relevant and delivered at the right time. For example, Project Boundary (an entry in the SmartAmerican Challenge, a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow project) used beacons to send personal messages that encourage healthier choices as one moves through his/her day.
2. Electronic health records – iBeacon technology can enable patients and physicians to receive relevant information at the right moment, based on geo-location. For example, when a patient is waiting outside the doctor’s room, the latest medical records can directly be sent to his/her mobile phone, in order to discuss them with the doctor.
In another example, beacons installed near patients’ beds can automatically notify the doctor or other relevant hospital staff about the patient’s specific medical records, directly on their mobile phones, when they visit the patient.
3. In-door navigation systems – Given the growth of massive integrated health care facilities and multi-speciality hospitals, beacons can greatly help with indoor maps and navigation. This can also help in reducing the costs incurred in installing signages, direction boards and physical maps.
4. Integration with wearable technology – Wearable technology (wrist bands, glasses and even jewelry) is an offspring of mobile technology that often syncs with devices. This category’s enormous potential for growth in the healthcare space can’t be ignored. The app that connects to the wearable can be geared with iBeacon technology in order to deliver highly contextual and hyper local content to users.
5. Streamline hospital operations – Beacons can help automate internal operations at hospitals. Hospital staff can be notified about their daily duties and other emergency duties on their mobile phones when they reach their assigned work areas in the hospital. They can also assist hospital staff via their mobile phone when they are near specific areas or devices. For example, beacons installed near nurse stations can notify them about their duties and provide them access to information – such as their patients’ medication requirements, emergency duties etc, on their mobile devices. Another trigger that may prove valuable to clinicians is automatic logins when the staff enters the hospital/department.
6. Increased data and analytics – One of the biggest advantages of iBeacon technology is its ability to collect a wealth of data that is contextual to the patient (this includes situations, emotions and preferences). This along with physiological data and usage data can be used to inform users about purchases and prescribing recommendations to them.
Recent examples of iBeacon technology in healthcare
1. Beacons at Leiden University Medical Centre
The cardiology department of Netherlands health-care provider Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) has been using a cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform along with iBeacon technology to treat patients with Acute myocardial infarction (AMI), in order to ensure that patients are treated as quickly as possible, thereby improving their chances of survival and recovery.
When an ambulance carrying a patient with a perceived AMI condition arrives at the emergency department, a wristband with a built-in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon is attached to that patient’s wrist before he/she is shifted from the vehicle. As the patient enters the facility, a BLE radio built into a tablet mounted near the entrance of the facility receives the tag’s beacon. That tablet then uses a Wi-Fi or 4G Internet connection to send the wristband’s ID to the hospital’s cloud-based service, where the application software links the time and location with the wristband and stores that information. As the patient is taken along one of the several routes leading to multiple labs, other tablets installed along the route continue to pick up the wristband ID as it comes within range, thus updating that wristband’s status to indicate, in real time, how quickly it is moving from one location to the next.
2. Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Florida
Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, has recently updated its app, integrating iBeacon location technology. The hospital initially explored GPS for indoor navigation, but faced problems with regards to recognising hospital floors.
The hospital also integrated a couponing solution to the app that allows it to push discounts to patients and families at the hospital’s gift store.
According to the hospital, the app has had positive feedback among its users.
Most healthcare players today are only scratching the surface with beacon deployments. Given the enormous possibilities of the technology, it is only a matter of time, before beacons form part of mainstream healthcare initiatives.
If you are planning a beacon pilot, here is a step by step guide to planning and deploying a successful pilot. Also, take a look at Beaconstac, that includes everything you need to get started. Using Beaconstac you can set up your own campaign, without a developer’s help!