Digital Medicine & Wearable Technology

Author: Andrew Norgan

Coauthor(s): Jean-Pierre Kocher, PhD

Status: Project Concept

Utilizing existing WLAN infrastructure to provide enhanced location-based services to patients and organizations.


A fundamental challenge for healthcare organizations is to develop an understanding of the flux and trajectory of patients moving through a distributed physical infrastructure. Localization of patients within an organization has broad applications, including improving patient experience, optimizing staff or system workloads, and adapting physical infrastructure to better shape organic patient wayfinding. Bespoke solutions for geolocation are often infrastructure intensive and expensive, and frequently require specific user-level hardware. An alternative solution is to leverage currently existing infrastructure to provide patient localization and asset tracking functionalities to organizations with limited cost. Recent generations of wireless router hardware installed at many institutions have the capability to provide Wi-Fi (WLAN) signal-based geolocation services to smartphone equipped patients through the existing network. While some software engineering is required to make full use of these services, the potential benefits to an organization are significant.

Once implemented, internal location services can provide patients or visitors with personalized directions to appointments, features of interest, or nearby external locations using an application with opt-in location capabilities on their personal smartphone. This low-cost solution immediately provides an improved patient experience, reducing frustration and increasing the visibility and accessibility of services and amenities around the healthcare organization. Furthermore, organizations can leverage anonymized and aggregated routing data to understand patient flows through major traffic areas (e.g., imaging, phlebotomy), and leverage such data to improve patient experience by providing accurate wait times, redirecting to overflow areas as needed, and to drive organizational staffing decisions to best locate staff to meet patient needs. Over time, organizations may use this data to improve patients flows, reduce physical bottlenecks and reorganize physical areas to better provide patients with a seamless, integrated visit experience. By capturing location data as it is generated, organizations will have the opportunity to leverage a host of optimization functions to improve organizational operations. In addition, knowledge of patient location opens up a new level personalized services, including automated registration/calling for visits or tests and increased ability to provide real-time and encounter-specific feedback on patient satisfaction. Each of the outcomes described herein is a potential metric for successful implementation of location services in healthcare. Furthermore, organizations can utilize the location infrastructure developed for patient care to further improve processes such as the distribution and utilization of vital equipment (e.g., AEDs, ultrasound machines, ECG machines).

Overall, location services will provide healthcare organizations with numerous new tools that can improve patient care and experience, while simultaneously optimizing organizational functions. Traditional infrastructure barriers to implementation of localization services need not prevent organizations from leveraging their existing wireless infrastructure for localization functions.