Industry Voices—3D location technology brings 'paging Dr. Smith' into the 21st century

photo shows torso of hospital doctor in hallway holding tablet computer
By being able to pinpoint the doctor’s location with high accuracy, patients’ needs can be attended to that much quicker. (Sergey Tinyakov/GettyImages)

We all remember old television shows where doctors were paged over a loudspeaker to alert them that they are urgently needed. That public address system evolved into pagers and then today’s cell phones.

These all rely on the doctor having to respond because his or her location within a hospital is not known, so time is wasted and patients are impacted. In an emergency, this can mean the difference between life and death.

Fortunately, hospitals are now able to deploy 3D location technology that enables an administrator to locate the doctor, even to the floor level in a high-rise hospital building. By being able to pinpoint the doctor’s location with high accuracy, patients’ needs can be attended to that much quicker, improving operational efficiency, enhancing patient care and helping save lives.

Hospitals are getting bigger (and taller)

The utility of 3D location technology is being driven by the need to quickly locate doctors and support staff in sprawling medical campuses, which are becoming more prevalent in urbanized areas.

The trend for hospitals to merge and group together in downtown medical districts has accelerated in recent years, resulting in city-size campuses that often include skyscraper buildings housing hundreds of specialties and serving tens of thousands of patients every day. The Texas Medical Center in Houston is the largest medical complex in the world, hosting 10 million patient visits annually and employing over 100,000 people across a five-square-mile campus. It contains the tallest hospital building in the world at over 150 meters.

RELATED: Doctors are among the last to still use pagers

Other cities such as London, Hong Kong and Chicago also host high-rise hospitals of over 100 meters. When a doctor cannot be located in a timely manner, patients suffer. Without a reliable way to know where a doctor is, including to the floor level in a multistory building, patients and their attending medical staff must wait and hope that the specialist they require will respond.

Getting an exact location on individual doctors in these facilities is a complex task, made easier by the introduction of new technologies.

RELATED: Industry Voices—Sizing up 4 opportunities for digital transformation in healthcare

New technologies, new possibilities

Another factor driving the adoption of 3D location in hospitals is the rapid evolution of the technology itself. In recent years, various methods to locate people indoors via a wireless device have sprung up utilizing a variety of technologies.

However, not all these technologies are equal in terms of accuracy, ease of deployment or cost. The chart below outlines the relative attributes of each location method.


Given the wide range of capabilities and costs for 3D location technology solutions, cost-conscious hospital administrators should do their homework and decide which option is best for them. 

Whatever 3D location solution they choose, hospitals can be confident that having a robust method to identify the accurate location of doctors to direct them quickly to patients in need will have a meaningful, positive impact on patient care and operational efficiency.

Manlio Allegra is the co-founder and CEO of Polaris Wireless and a recognized thought leader on all things location. His articles have appeared in business and industry publications including Mission Critical Communications, Directions Magazine and IoT Evolution. 

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