NHS WiFi has the potential to deliver wide reaching benefits within primary care. From supporting new working practices to streamline operations to providing an enhanced patient experience, secure, robust and reliable WiFi can be the launchpad to the digital practice.

…everyone using the NHS expects it to be a leader in digital healthcare and free Wi-Fi is an essential part of making that into a reality.

Jeremy Hunt

Secretary of State for Health

Our experience in delivering WiFi into over 500 GP practices throughout the UK has given us a unique perspective on what can be achieved. We understand the importance of enabling access to services from anywhere in the practice. We also realise the broad impact this can have for both patients and staff.

Improving the patient experience

An increasing number of people expect fast and reliable connectivity wherever they are and practices are under growing pressure to exceed the expectations of an increasingly connected world.

South and East Leeds Federation recently deployed WiFi across 53 practices, as part of the project they wanted to improve the patient journey and give them access to resources during practice visits. Ciara Dunne, Project Manager for the federation stated, “we wanted WiFi for ease of access for patients, we wanted them to be able to book appointments online, do questionnaires, view their records and access health information. We chose Egton because of our good relationship and the guest WiFi is helping us meet patient needs.”

Providing patient WiFi in the waiting room opens up new communication channels. Creating custom landing pages to share essential health information, is one way of keeping patients engaged and informed throughout their wait.

It can also be used as a tool to put patients at ease and create a pleasant waiting environment. An increasing number of healthcare organisations are restricting toys in certain areas in fear of contamination and infections spreading. Connectivity on personal devices can help parents keep children entertained, creating a relaxed atmosphere and reducing stress for patients.

Making it work for you

Wi-Fi providing access to NHS and clinical services is becoming more common across the UK with large scale roll outs happening at CCG level, we have deployed this across both West Herts CCG and Leeds CCG with further deployments due to commence, which shows the growing desire to create a more flexible working environment. A number of organisations we are working with are using their WiFi for various reasons to deliver a personalised patient experience. Some interesting examples include:

  • Sharing gender specific check-up and vaccination information.
  • Patient feedback and updating contact details.
  • Gathering QOF data using friends and family questions.
  • Providing access to pre-appointment health checks online.
  • Showcasing online services for patients to use when out of the practice, improving familiarity and up-take amongst the less tech savvy

We understand that no two practices are the same and these are just a few of the potential applications.

New working practices

WiFi connectivity can play an important part in the provision of care for doctors across all care settings by reducing the time spent tied to a desk completing admin tasks. Martha Lane Fox, founder of Doteveryone highlighted the potential impact of WiFi for health professionals in her recommendations to the NHS. She mentioned how access to WiFi, “would also reduce the administrative burden on doctors, nurses and care staff, currently estimated to take up to 70% of a junior doctor’s day, freeing up more time to be spent with patients.”

WiFi offers a great opportunity to implement flexible ways of working and provide access to information, without compromising on compliance, security and ease of use. Practitioners can use a range of mobile working devices and access live patient data to provide treatment from anywhere in the practice. Integrated medical devices can efficiently update the correct patient record within your clinical system at the point of care, reducing the risk of human error and enhancing patient safety. Community workers can connect to essential systems such as the N3 network and make better informed care decisions with up to date patient information during practice visits. Practice WiFi makes it easier for everyone to access digital information while on NHS premises. Ultimately leading to better patient outcomes.

We wanted to work more freely without being stuck in one room. Practice WiFi means we can move around and access the same information on our mobile devices. We are now able to share best practices, deliver flexible care and connect wirelessly during meetings. Our visiting community workers can also connect their medical devices to work and deliver care straight away.

Ciara Dunne

Project Manager, South and East Leeds Federation

Future of health services

As far back as 2014, Beverley Bryant, then director of strategic systems and technology at NHS England stated, “the future of GP services is as much about accessibility for patients as freeing up doctors so they have more time to care.” Since then WiFi has become much more than a utility for many GP practices, it has become a feature rich resource adding real value whether that’s for putting patients at ease, improving their care experience or improving how staff share, access and connect to information.

Naturally, the key considerations of patient safety, security and privacy are paramount when implementing new solutions for the practice. These risks can be reduced if the most suitable solutions are chosen and the correct steps are taken when introducing new technology. Through the power of WiFi, we can deliver sustainable digital transformation for healthcare settings and provide better and safer patient care.