Healthcare organizations and senior care centers, despite the best of intentions, can be frustrating places — for patients, residents and caregivers alike. Huge volumes of sensitive information are in play, and mistakes can be costly, or even dangerous.

Luckily, there are a variety of tools that have begun to make over caregiving spaces in a myriad of ways. From electronic medical records (EMRs) and patient tablets to digital signage and beacon technology, the medical field is embracing the digital revolution.

Promoting Patient Engagement

Improvement in care happens when a patient is a part of the solution and care plan. EMRs play a big role in getting patients involved from the moment they step through the door and up to the front desk to register at a healthcare facility. EMRs speed up the check-in process — sometimes automated via a bank of kiosks — and keep all the relevant data organized and available as shifts of caregivers come on and leave duty.

Some healthcare organizations are experimenting by giving patients tablets loaded with educational content that helps inform them about their condition to train them in the self-care that will be required upon discharge. I’ve seen this done in two ways, with some facilities issuing a rugged device that is wiped of any potentially sensitive information when the patient is released, while other facilities choose to purchase very low-cost devices that go home with the patient permanently. Apps such as Epic’s MyChart Bedside give patients secure access to their full medical file.

Increasingly, the elderly population uses these types of technology with as much ease as the younger generation does. The saturation of smartphones means senior care facilities can take advantage of many of the same patient care technologies to keep seniors engaged in their own health maintenance. For those patients with physical impairments, there’s even technology that helps compensate when it comes to such things as toggling a virtual button on a touch screen.

In short, the notion of an always-connected patient has a lot of appeal. If we can keep patients as part of the process, they will co-own their care, and the dividends will be significant for everyone involved.

Simplifying Wayfinding and Inventory Management

Wayfinding and beacon technologies also have exciting applications in healthcare, especially when paired with dynamic digital signage. Wayfinding can be used for something as simple as helping healthcare facility guests find their way from the parking lot to the bedside of a patient, or as complex as helping caregivers navigate the hallway traffic and find the most efficient route between departments or even buildings during emergency conditions.

Meanwhile, low-cost, low-energy beacons can be placed on vital equipment so that healthcare organization employees can rapidly locate shared resources. Rather than buying duplicates that will sit in storage, these facilities can purchase fewer high-cost items, tag them with inexpensive electronic beacons, and find those items easily when they are required. Bluetooth Low Energy is particularly popular for these types of applications.

Improving Care, Seamlessly

Technology should not complicate matters; if it does, then there’s a better solution waiting to be found, says Preston. “At heart, each of these technologies is about improving patient care by simplifying the complex processes around healthcare facility management, freeing caregivers to focus on patients and empowering patients to get involved in their care.”

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