Patients and medical professionals benefit from wireless connectivity
Advancements in technology and connectivity are simultaneously improving the quality and efficiency of healthcare. One of the most powerful factors in the rapid evolution of healthcare IT has been the development of LTE networking. Reliable wireless connectivity enables thousands of new technologies and applications to help medical care providers “cut the wire” and provide care far beyond hospital walls.
From kiosks and the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT) to telemedicine, mobile clinics, and electronic medical records, connectivity is revolutionizing the ways people tend to their health and well-being.
Waiting Room Kiosks
Reliable wireless connectivity gives providers the flexibility to place patient kiosks in waiting rooms to streamline simple data entry, as well as create a more personalized patient experience. At kiosks, patients can:
- Set appointments and check in
- Complete forms and questionnaires
- Scan driver licenses and insurance cards
- View account balances and pay for services
- Review medical information
- Learn more about specific medical conditions and how to care for them
- Use interactive maps to navigate the building or campus
Some kiosks are used to increase awareness of and seek candidates for medical donations. Often set up in retail outlets, office complexes, and other high-traffic areas, these kiosks allow potential organ, blood, and bone marrow donors to answer screening questions and watch videos about the process. Potential donors also can see profiles and photos of patients in need of donations, and they can sign up to receive a donor-testing kit in the mail.
Diagnostic kiosks have been around for decades. For example, blood pressure stations in pharmacies and grocery stores are used by an estimated 70 million people each year. Today, the potential for diagnostic kiosks to improve patient care and operational efficiencies is rapidly growing. LTE is helping usher in an era of kiosks with Machine-to-Machine (M2M) functionality to help providers do more than just remotely collect data from patients.
Today’s “clinic-in-a-store” kiosks can connect patients to physicians in real time. A patient may use a kiosk to conduct and transmit a retinal scan to an ophthalmologist, who can diagnose ocular disorders based on the findings.
Some kiosks serve as virtual offices where onsite healthcare professionals can conduct diagnostic appointments between remote physicians and patient. These kiosks also are capable of:
- Updating patient health records on the spot
- Gauging vital signs and informing patients whether they should seek further medical advice.
- Administering diagnostic tests and then saving the results for patients to review and track online from their homes
The Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT)
In the just the past few years, wireless technologies and medical devices within the IoHT have transformed the way medical care is delivered. For instance, a new generation of intelligent heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, glucometers, asthma inhalers, and thermometers no longer must be connected with wires. These days, patients can send providers integral personal health information from the waiting room, at home, or even as they travel. For those with more severe medical conditions, healthcare professionals can remotely monitor patients’ vital signs via LTE-connected, wearable body sensors. Real-time data improves the ability of providers to quickly and accurately administer treatment based on up-to-date information. In other words, it helps achieve better health outcomes. One of the most significant challenges physicians face is ensuring patients take medicine when and how it was prescribed. New wireless IoHT technology embedded in pill bottles enables doctors to remotely track whether a patient has taken his or her medicine.
The rise in healthcare costs has led to a reduction in the number of physicians and medical staff available to treat patients. Emerging trends in telemedicine seek to correct this imbalance through the use of wireless networks to connect providers with one another from remote locations.
Modern-day healthcare professionals can use video conferencing to bridge the gap between rural and urban offices. A family medicine physician in a small town can consult with specialists in a large city much easier than before. This practice literally can save the life of a rurally located patient who needs highly specialized care. With systems now in place to remotely share electronic medical records, review scans or X-rays, and discuss treatment options in real time, doctors can save substantial time and money — which is important for everyone.
One of the most transformative improvements in healthcare technology has been in-vehicle connectivity. Emergency medical personnel now send triage information and patient histories ahead to the emergency room from the road. While the patient is en route, ER staff can monitor vital signs, review photos or videos that might help diagnose the patient, check the person’s prescription drug history, and dictate treatment instructions to paramedics. In-vehicle LTE connectivity allows patients at mobile clinics to receive highly advanced healthcare services without setting foot in a traditional doctor’s office.
Also, with mobile routers small enough to fit in a carry-on, in-home and mobile caretakers enjoy a secure, reliable Internet connection for accessing reference materials, email, and patient medical and prescription histories.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
The healthcare industry’s widespread move toward electronic health records has streamlined various processes and made access to a patient’s medical history practically instant — from anywhere. Remote access to EHRs has been particularly useful in emergency care. As soon as first responders know a patient’s name, they can gain access to a wealth of information about medical status and begin to treat the patient accordingly. Patients directly benefit from EHRs. They are are subjected to far fewer redundant questions from multiple practitioners during sign-in and follow-up processes. In turn, practitioners can spend a larger percentage of their time providing care.
Of course, security is a major factor regarding EHRs, as well as one of the main concerns for network administrators at healthcare facilities. Should a data breach result in patients’ personal, medical, or financial data being stolen, the resulting fallout could harm patients and subject the provider to fines for failure to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry (PCI) guidelines.
Cradlepoint’s cloud-managed LTE solutions enable best-in-breed, cloud-based network security applications — that fully meet HIPAA and PCI regulations — to keep patients, hospital administrators and IT managers at ease.
“Our infrastructure is more secured now because of how Cradlepoint has enabled us to configure, monitor, and manage the network,” said Shawn Wiora, CIO and CISO for Creative Solutions in Healthcare. “We’ve made tremendous progress in achieving a much higher level of awareness of the network. If someone were to try to attack our facilities, we’d know it immediately and have solutions in place to thwart the attack.”
For additional protection, organizations use Cradlepoint solutions for Parallel Networking, which keeps credit card and other sensitive data completely separate or “air-gapped” from other applications and third-party networks.
Healthcare Technology Improves Patient Experience
The present and future of LTE-enabled healthcare networking is bright. For instance, robotics is poised to emerge as a major tool for patient care — potentially affecting everything from the distribution of medication to exoskeletons enabling paraplegics to walk. For now, practitioners and patients alike are reaping the benefits of LTE connectivity — making healthcare more accessible, efficient, and flexible than ever before.