From hospitals to private practices, network-dependent technology is becoming more and more prevalent in the healthcare industry. Whether it’s a doctor using a tablet to access an electronic medical record or a patient taking advantage of a ‘Guest Network’ to watch Netflix – technology has become crucial in improving quality of care and ensuring the profitability and survival of healthcare organizations. The challenge for both of these groups and for healthcare IT is the constant battle for network resources and the impact one group’s activities have on the other. The need for bandwidth can be argued from both sides.
The Doctor’s Perspective
Doctors, nurses, clinicians and administrative staff have turned to various network-dependent services to improve quality of care and increase the efficiency and productivity of the organization. For example, 96% of hospitals have adopted Electronic Health Records. EHR provides teams with immediate access to a patient’s full history, allowing for more efficient communication and collaboration during all stages of patient care. And EHR is just one example. Healthcare teams also need access to practice management software for billing and scheduling as well as Picture Archiving Communication Systems (PACs) to retrieve MRIs, X-rays and CT scans. Not to mention, this information is often being used from several different locations on multiple personal devices. If healthcare teams have to spend valuable time waiting for medical images to download or to access records, not only will it create frustration for physicians, but patient care will also suffer tremendously.
The Patient Prospective
Beyond the benefits of EHR and PACs to provide quality patient care – patients also benefit from using a facility’s guest network from their personal devices. With so much time being spent in emergency rooms, waiting areas, procedure rooms, recovery areas and rehabilitation, giving patient and visitors access to the network has become commonplace for many healthcare facilities. On average, respondents wait 23 minutes in the waiting room and 15 minutes in the exam room – while some of that time might be spent reading a book or staring at the wall, the reality is most are using a mobile device to pass the time. Providing reliable and consistent access to the network during this time can be argued as an extension to exceptional quality of care and as a competitive differentiator for healthcare organizations to retain and attract new patients. Not to mention, patients and visitors with long hospital stays expect to be able to watch Netflix, send emails and check social media – using the network enhances communication with family and friends, provides entertainment and reduces the feeling of isolation. Without this service, patients may just take their business elsewhere.
Solving the Bandwidth Dilemma
The biggest challenge for healthcare IT teams with their patients streaming media and using personal devices is the excessive strain it puts on the network. However, this doesn’t mean you have to block Netflix or Facebook. Here are 2 ways to enable BYOD without impacting your critical apps.
1. Put Clinical Apps First
Ensure doctors don’t waste valuable time downloading medical images or accessing patient files, by giving your critical applications like EHR and PACs priority over less important traffic. Create a policy to guarantee the necessary amount of bandwidth for these apps to ensure healthcare teams can quickly access, download and share the clinical information they need from any facility at any time of day.
2. Restrict Recreational Activity
To ensure video streaming and social media activity doesn’t overwhelm your network and impede the performance of your critical apps, implement traffic shaping policies. Allocate the right amount of resources to this recreational traffic so patients can still access these applications, but not at the expense of mission-critical services like EHR, PACs and practice management software.