Beacons are a wireless technology that uses Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) to transmit signals to nearby smartphones.
This offers exciting possibilities for a variety of industries such as retail, transportation and healthcare—anywhere people use smartphones. Even chiropractic offices stand to benefit.
As more practices adopt this technology, doctors will be using beacons to help their EHR work more effectively, to replace employee time cards and even check-in patients as they walk through the clinic’s front door.
Learn more about beacons and find tips for deploying them in your chiropractic office.
Introduction to beacons
Fitting in the palm of your hand and operating wirelessly on a small battery, beacons are simple devices that recognize whenever a BLE-enabled device enters within their range. Typically, the beacon then transmits its ID number to the device. If the device has an installed app that recognizes the ID, the app will trigger a message or prompt an action on the device. Beacons can be placed on walls, hidden behind desks or placed anywhere they are needed. In retail, beacons are already being used to send custom advertising to shoppers’ phones and tablets when they walk through different areas of a store.¹
In order to respond to beacons, consumer’s smartphones or other mobile devices must be BLE-compatible. Right now, Apple’s iPhone product line and some Android phones have this technology. Devices will need to have their BLE turned on in order to connect with beacons. Consumers must also opt-in to using apps that interact with beacons and must consent to revealing their location to these apps.¹
Using beacons in healthcare
For clinical settings, such as chiropractic offices, beacons allow the office to interact with patients’ phones based on where the patients are and what they are doing. A beacon can send a greeting to patients when they walk in and provide the patient with instructions, while another beacon can check-in patients automatically. If a patient is waiting for you in an exam room, a beacon could prompt your tablet to load your patient’s charts when you walk in. These are just a few of the potential applications of beacon technology.
Right now, beacons still represent a technological frontier for many practices. With developers eagerly creating apps to interface between beacons and devices, though, beacons may become commonplace at chiropractic offices within the next few years.
Practices that want to begin experimenting with beacons can purchase developer kits that include three beacons and developer software for under a hundred dollars from Estimote. Other developers and hardware manufacturers are listed in a guide on the iBeacon website, with companies that help develop custom beacon solutions.
Bringing beacons to your practice
If you are ready to implement beacons in your clinic right now, keep in mind that you will probably need to hire a developer or enlist the services of a consultant to help integrate beacon functionality into your systems. If you plan to link beacon use to your EHR, be sure to ask your vendor about your options. You may need to create your own custom smartphone or tablet apps to use beacons in your clinic.
Beacons, along with virtual time card apps, can provide accurate time tracking for employee hours. One company offering this feature is Replicon. As employees walk past beacons placed at the entrance or exit of your clinic, Replicon installed on their smartphones provides accurate time stamps so there is no risk of forgetting to clock in and out.
As more developers create out-of-the-box beacon software and more smartphone manufacturers create BLE-compatible products, using beacons will become easier and more flexible.
- iBeacon Insider. “What is iBeacon? A Guide to Beacons.” iBeacon. http://www.ibeacon.com/what-is-ibeacon-a-guide-to-beacons/. Accessed May 2016.
- Estimote. “How do I get started?” Estimote.com. http://estimote.com/#jump-to-products. Accessed May 2016.
- iBeacon Insider. “Using Beacons for Employee Time Tracking.” iBeacon. http://www.ibeacon.com/using-beacons-for-employee-time-tracking/. Published October 2014. Accessed May 2016.