Beacons brighten the patient experience

September 21, 2015



Eight ways beacon technology can improve patient care—and health outcomes.


A hospital can feel like an isolating, confusing and frustrating maze. Locating a specialist, getting your medication or finding a patient can feel like a stress test. And, sitting around and waiting with nothing to do can be grueling. But, mobile technology—specifically beacons—has the potential to serve as a guiding light that will brighten the experience of navigating a hospital.

Beacons are physical sensors that can be placed anywhere and can trigger actions on smartphones that are in close proximity. They can be used as an indoor positioning system and to provide context specific content to users. For healthcare providers, these applications can transform the patient and visitor experience.

In combination with a mobile app, beacons can provide indoor navigation, much like how GPS enables navigation outdoors. Once a patient or visitor arrives at the facility, the beacon can send a signal to their smartphone, offering them to check-in digitally. This will save patients, visitors and hospital staff time and lead to more accurate information both for patients and the facility. Healthcare providers can provide information about wait times, and other general announcements such as visitor hours, and local events to the user.

Combined with other features in a healthcare provider app, a visit to the hospital may soon look like this:

  1. A patient arrives at the hospital and is guided by the app to the location of the specialist.
  2. The patient is automatically checked in and provided with an estimated wait time on the app.
  3. During the wait time, a patient receives suggestions on where to spend the wait time and is provided with indoor navigation to those locations (e.g., recreational areas, cafeteria, information booths, etc.)
  4. The patient receives a notification when the specialist is ready to meet.
  5. After consultation with the specialist, specific treatment information is pushed to the patient’s mobile phone and follow up appointments are added to patient’s calendar.
  6. Once the patient arrives at the pharmacy, the application communicates the prescription information to the pharmacy staff to fulfill the order.
  7. The app has a provision for the patient to double check any medication tips and side effect information.
  8. The patient can also refer to the doctor’s notes from the visit and initiate a video call or interact from the app with nurses if there are any follow up questions.

Historically, patients have worried about technology exposing their personal health data. Since beacon technology only provides one-way communication – from the beacon to the smartphone – this can help alleviate some of the data privacy concerns.

Mobile healthcare provider applications enriched with beacon technology can be a true delight for patients and their visitors, as well as hospital staff. Implemented the right way, healthcare providers have a unique opportunity to provide a better patient experience through more meaningful touch points.

Other industries could also potentially take advantage of this technology; one obvious implementation is in the retail sector. Retailers can provide shoppers with guidance on the products they would like to buy or make recommendation based on their shopping behavior. The possibilities are endless.

Mobile technology is already ubiquitous in daily life, and is now becoming more prevalent in healthcare as well. Recent technology developments have the potential to revolutionize how patients interact with healthcare providers.




Chris Curran

Principal and Chief Technologist, PwC US Tel: +1 (214) 754 5055 Email

Vicki Huff Eckert

Global New Business & Innovation Leader Tel: +1 (650) 387 4956 Email

Mark McCaffery

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Leader Tel: +1 (408) 817 4199 Email