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A sign of the times for healthcare facilities under pressure

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Insight into how hospitals and other healthcare institutions can use digital signage to communicate to frontline staff and visitors on-site during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves through hospitals and other healthcare institutions, which have had to continuously adapt to rapidly changing conditions. Many have also recently had to shift from providing emergency triage for an onslaught of coronavirus cases – on top of the common emergencies and illnesses they already deal with – to proactively support national vaccination rollouts.

The result of the need to make continuous adjustments as the crisis has developed has been that the requirements for communication technologies to help healthcare facilities adjust have been greater than ever. Systems such as track and trace via smartphone apps along with the management of vaccination schedules for entire populations have highlighted the potential for digital tools to deliver effective communication across entire hospital and healthcare services – and the communities they serve. To effectively deal with individuals who still require treatment at hospitals and clinics worldwide amid ongoing social distancing requirements and other restrictions, many healthcare providers are finding new ways to interact with visitors and patients through innovative IPTV and digital signage technologies.

Case in point: keeping everyone informed

The TOBB University of Technology and Economics (ETÜ) Hospital in Turkey serves as an excellent example of how IPTV can be used to keep all personnel and visitors on-site informed efficiently. TOBB ETÜ Hospital installed an IP video system in patient rooms, clinic waiting areas, visitor waiting rooms, and its on-site restaurants and cafes. The system facilitates the delivery of broadcast programming – including the news – and educational material to 85 patient rooms, six public areas and 28 staff desktops.

Access to local and international channels can help ensure patients are abreast of the pandemic’s latest news and developments. The IP video system also delivers prepared presentations and training videos to enable staff to access medical information or refresh their training at their convenience from a desktop computer.

TOBB ETÜ is one of many hospitals around the world that had already deployed IPTV prior to the pandemic, an increasingly useful tool for mass communications that can help reduce the amount of face-to-face exposure. The ability to display health-related communication in multiple languages and graphical representations offer a powerful tool – especially when dealing with multi-ethnic and culturally diverse populations.

Reaching people with dynamic tools

Although many digital signage implementations are seen as a form of one-way communication, a growing number of interactive systems can be used to greet visitors at the facility’s entrance and streamline ‘check-in’ processes through touchscreens and kiosks. Digital signage can be utilised to inform visitors where and how to begin the ‘check-in’ process and can include a range of other useful messages for those entering a hospital, including visitation hours, queue management information and wayfinding directions to departments and facilities like vending machines and restrooms. These digital signage applications help improve the overall visitor experiences while minimising interaction with staff by allowing visitors to check themselves in and find their way to their appointment.

In addition to the impact felt by frontline staff, in-patient stays can also benefit from enhanced communication tools and bedside TV entertainment. For example, at Qatar’s Hamad Medical Corporation, IPTV and digital signage technologies are employed to help patients feel connected to the outside world. Deployed throughout the hospital and in individual patient rooms at the specialist Tertiary Communicable Disease Centre, the IPTV system facilitates the delivery of 120 live and Video on Demand (VoD) channels to inform, entertain and support the patients, guests, and visitors while they are being treated, waiting or visiting the hospital campus. The digital signage solution also enables the hospital to create, manage and display dynamic signage across the site, communicating important updates on COVID-19 safety-compliant measures.

Technology that’s fit for purpose

These tools are also being increasingly used behind the scenes to overcome communication hurdles. Many healthcare providers use ward notice boards and internal electronic emailing methods, which in the midst of an ‘all hands to the pump’ crisis are sometimes problematic. With the impact of COVID-19, time available to ward staff to update static boards and check emails may be severely limited – and many staff, such as cleaners and other contractors, may have no access to email at all. To get around these issues, an increasing number of facilities use digital signage to efficiently update staff throughout large-scale facilities and across various locations, which can include break rooms, patient rooms and admission areas. These displays can quickly distribute critical information like policy changes, patient information, staff rosters, operation schedules, ongoing training opportunities, human resources information and, perhaps most critically, patient intake statuses.

By linking digital signage to hospital management systems, these critical updates can be dynamically created and displayed on defined screens with little human interaction – saving time and effort to support busy healthcare professionals. With the healthcare profession running at full capacity, digital signage and IP video have also been used to display necessary training and work protocols for staff, including instructions on cleaning communal equipment; observing new procedures for deliveries; and using cafeterias, kitchens and other facilities shared by frontline staff. Additional benefits of digital signage include adding more screens anywhere on the network easily and the ability to update signage screens remotely in real-time. Vitally, they can also be used to trigger emergency alerts and emergency messaging across the hospital staff screens.

The need to remain vigilant

IPTV and digital signage technology have proven itself invaluable during the recent pandemic. Moving forward, the lesson learnt around how to manage the dual requirements of minimising contact while still providing outstanding healthcare services will lead to more innovative use cases. Although vaccination programmes are being rolled out in countries around the world, the prospect of a new variant changing circumstances, or another type of outbreak, means that being prepared to adjust and deploy communications to staff, patients and others who are on-site will remain of critical importance to hospitals and other medical facilities. Indeed, the ability of healthcare providers to once again step into the breach means that exploring innovative new technologies to foster better digital communication should remain on the agenda of senior leaders throughout the industry.

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Colin Farquhar

This article appears in the latest issue of Omnia Health Magazine. Read the full issue online today.

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