Dan Leaf

Digital wireless communication connectivity has become critical to virtually every aspect of our lives. We connect with family members or co-workers daily from our wireless devices. 

Yet the healthcare space is an area where such wireless communication has become increasingly necessary to maintain patient records, charting, telehealth and to offer healthcare equity to diverse patient populations.

That has become more evident throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and our reliance on wireless technology to continue effective medical care.

Key to digital communications is wireless technology and facility structure. It has become apparent just how necessary it is to build, maintain and update them to support successful healthcare communications between departments, facilities, healthcare professionals and patients. It is much more than an amenity. It is a necessity.

Overwhelmed wireless healthcare communications systems

It is more common now for skilled nursing professionals to use cellular devices to keep records and enter patient data. Meanwhile, patients and their families utilize wireless systems to maintain communication on their phones and tablets. 

Demand on a wireless network structure can become overwhelming and connections can become disrupted by the sheer volume of devices linked to the network. That has a direct impact on residential care facilities in their efforts to conduct routine charting, placing orders and more. Orders entered but not received can cause a delay in patient care.

The effectiveness of medical field wireless systems experienced growing pains during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many contributing factors challenged existing systems in new ways. Telehealth was one of them. Doctors and patients turned increasingly to online telehealth appointments as community shutdowns occurred. While telehealth was convenient, it was also very taxing on facility wireless communications systems because video required more data streaming capability.

Patients in residential care facilities were also communicating wirelessly in record numbers with family members due to reduced visitor requirements. Healthcare providers know how critical human connection is for a patient’s emotional state and how it can impact recovery. Wireless connection can be a lifeline; however, a weak wireless signal can prevent such benefits.

Imagine being alone, fearful for your health and unable to connect with a loved one from your nursing home. Or the anguish of a family member who must say goodbye from a distance but loses cellular signal in the final moments.

Solutions for skilled nursing facilities

Wireless communication systems must be at their best to support these new, more common means of wireless connection for healthcare professionals and their patients. The following are ways facilities can bolster data structures and systems to support necessary functionality.

Annual testing and updating are important to maintain communications capability. A check for system speed and possible interference should be included. Local antenna and tower improvements can cause interference to a facility’s connection. Ensure any annual maintenance your facility receives includes updating systems to mitigate such interference.

Another consideration includes dated facility structures, which can compromise connectivity and system implementation. Communications systems can be impacted by a building’s size, number of walls and construction materials. Requirements for system efficiency can change over time and be impacted by older structures. Physical building updates can also cause interference.

An annual test and review should determine system update needs to keep communications successful and meet the demands of healthcare professionals and patients alike.

Facilities can ensure a successful communications system for the long term by partnering with the right professionals in wireless technology implementation. 

Maintaining wireless connectivity in healthcare

Connectivity has advanced everything we do. We rely on it for our daily lives and increasingly in the healthcare space. Its advances have allowed skilled nursing facilities to get more done in less time while enabling patients to maintain a connection with their families. The value it provides raises the bar in patient care.

Maintaining and upgrading existing communications systems will ensure that value continues. Implementing annual testing and updates with a trusted communications partner enables healthcare facilities to deliver care their patients can rely on.

Dan Leaf is CEO and president at LEAF Communications, which offers robust solutions to the healthcare industry’s growing connectivity needs and is known for developing and maintaining cutting edge and functional wireless solutions on a national basis across industries. LEAF has worked with Fortune 500 companies, hospitals and large campuses across the US.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.