Improving hospitals using Apple's iBeacon & BLE technology

Patrick Carne /

One application for beacon technology that hasn’t seen a lot of coverage but offers great potential is for hospitals and emergency services. With the gradual uptake of new technology to replace legacy systems (e.g. patient charts, staff communication, medical software on smart phones/tablets etc.), hospitals are ripe with opportunities to utilise ibeacon and Bluetooth Low Energy technology. Below are a few possible applications for hospitals:

1. Patient information: Many hospitals have already started replacing traditional patient charts with digital alternatives, giving doctors and nurses the ability to use iPads connected to the hospitals network to easily view patient information. This provides a number of obvious benefits such as centralising patient information, preventing lost charts, improved data accuracy, better security and restrictions to sensitive data. By introducing iBeacons to this type of system, doctors could automatically be presented with the relevant patient file as soon as they enter the room – improving their efficiency and removing the need to remember and look up patient names. It could also improve the privacy of the patient by restring access to patient information to doctors that actually spend time with the patient.

2. Equipment tracking: Talk to any nurse that works within a large hospital and you will find that equipment going missing is a constant pain point for them. Combine this with the cost of the replacing the equipment and you have a significant opportunity to address this issue through iBeacon deployments. Given the small cost and long battery life of beacon devices, it makes sense to tag valuable equipment within hospitals. This could include medical machinery, patient beds, wheel chairs or anything that could be moved from one room to another. Combining beacon tagging with software on nurses and doctors phones/tablets would allow them to immediately locate a piece of equipment within the hospital as well as easily manage equipment inventory.

3. Staff tracking: Another great feature that beacon technology could provide is locating staff that are working or on-call within a hospital. This would give nurses the ability to easily locate staff without the need to page them and potentially distracting them from an important task or operation. It would also allow them to quickly locate doctors during an emergency and improve emergency response times. Whilst tracking staff may create some privacy concerns, these could be easily mitigated using some simple management tools and security controls.

4. Hospital navigation and contextual information: One of the more obvious benefits of beacon technology within hospitals is indoor navigation . GPS does not work well in-doors or over multiple floors, and this is where beacons shine. By implementing beacons throughout the hospital, an application could be provided to temporary staff and visitors that helps guide them via a map to where they need to go. It could even pin-point the patient they are going to see on the hospital map, or guide them back to the exact spot where they parked their car. This application could also be used to provide contextual information to patients such as waiting times, important notices or instructions based on their location.

5. Automated check-in for regular patients: The last application that we considered is automated patient check-ins. Patients that return to hospital regularly for checkups or repeating procedures (e.g. Chemotherapy), could use an application that automatically checks them in at the front desk and provides them with pre-loaded information about where to go, waiting times, and other relevant patient information.