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Wireless Nurse Call: Are we ready for it?

As the challenge to provide more care – with fewer resources continues, service providers look towards technology to provide some of the necessary solutions. Wireless Nurse Call systems have been marketed, and, provided a range of options for many years.

As WiFi technology becomes more prevalent both commercially and domestically, it’s natural that some would seek the efficiencies of utilising these systems – or review Wireless call systems in general. It’s not unusual for either new technologies (or an enhancement of existing) to portray an optimistic perspective of a product’s expected performance. When theory and reality clash, there is typically a financial or human cost. To provide some useful information for consideration and in an attempt to bring some balanced perspective on the wireless nurse Call option – we submit the following information.

A wireless emergency call system provides an excellent alternative to a hard-wired system under the following scenarios:

  • The physical properties of the building make installing wiring either excessively time consuming, or prohibitively expensive
  • The disturbance involved with the installation of wiring will present an unacceptable intrusion to residents or patients

Improvements in technology have seen wireless systems become far more reliable than earlier systems. We have installed thousands of points in numerous locations around the state, and are satisfied with their reliability and performance.

The installation in each case – was due to an inability to “hard-wire” a system. While no system or architecture can claim infallibility, a physical connection means that a correctly installed hard-wired system will always be more reliable than its wireless counterpart.

Despite the convenience of WiFi, the following limitations exist in utilising the technology.

Technology Considerations

  1. WiFi callpoints are far more expensive to buy and install, and require significant Infrastructure for appropriate and redundant coverage
  2. WiFi callpoints will consume lots of power and are unlikely to last long periods of time on a single (even expensive lithium) battery. Projected life spans are not realistic
  3. It is suspected they may not have tested these solutions and come up with a theoretical dissipation. The reality is that lithium batteries rely on a chemical composition which naturally degrades and continually drops their capacity. A full lithium battery will not last more than 2 years on the shelf (without usage). Furthermore, after this period of time, they cannot be charged, which requires an expensive replacement
  4. WiFi was not intended for such functions. There are other technologies that would be better suited
  5. WiFi drop outs are common, which means that the system will not be available 100% of the time
  6. WiFi latency could perhaps be beyond the standard 2 second system alarm requirement when 100’s of devices are used
  7. WiFi sleep states will require a reconnection after the machine wakes up, which can potentially cause significant call delays but impact on power consumed
  8. WiFi is prone to interference from mobile phones and other devices now common in contemporary environments
  9. The dense arrangement of WiFi callpoints is not suitable for such technologies

Information on WiFi Call Points for Nurse Call Systems: FAQ with Answers 

Does Austco have a wireless callpoint? Yes, Austco has RF callpoints. Although we are constantly looking at the technology, Austco does not have WiFi callpoints. We feel that although the technology has come a long way, it is still not suitable for a lifesaving call system.

Why is wireless still not suitable for a lifesaving system? The infrastructure to support them is far more expensive and more visually intrusive than cables. You always want the most efficient system and wireless is unlikely to give that to you. There is no such thing as a wireless system that has 100% up time, so the risk‐analysis for your facility will have to identify that there will be times when a call is activated at the callpoint, but the signal does not reach the system because wireless communication was momentarily unavailable.

There are batteries in the callpoint:

  • How long will they last?
  • How much will it cost to replace them?
  • How many callpoints are there in your facility – 100s? Maintenance is going to visit each of them and replace the battery – all in the same month because they were all installed at the same time?

What benefit is there in a wireless device? You could want to move the callpoints around. How often will you need to do this? If nursing staff can move them, it means patients/residents can move them. Is this what you really want in your facility? If maintenance has to move the callpoints for you, how long will this take and is it the best use of their time? If it is a key requirement that you move callpoints, add extra blank points in the room with our system, allowing maintenance to move the callpoints to pre–defined points in the room.

If you want wireless because you want to update an existing building until the new facility is finished. You may save on cables for the callpoints, but you will not save cabling/infrastructure for the receivers. Regardless of the installation – new or refurbishment – it is necessary to install the wireless callpoints and temporarily install the receivers until their effectiveness can be tested. If the receivers need to be moved, this will involve extra time and disruption to the facility after it has opened. 

Interference can be a problem. Wireless transmissions are affected by the environment – furniture, people, interference from other wireless devices – so it is extremely difficult to ensure 100% uptime with wireless, because you cannot control the environment at all times.

These are Just some of the considerations to look at and assess before you make the decision whether your facility "is ready for wireless."

Authorised Resellers of

Austco Communications Systems Spok Accutech Wander Management Multitone Australasia


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