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More hospitals should offer Wi-Fi to patients: advocate

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Imagine spending days, or even months, in a hospital with very little connection to the outside world. Using your smartphone or laptop is a great way to stay connected.

But Laura White with the Provincial Health Services Authority says free Wi-Fi access is not very common in hospitals around the Lower Mainland because of the cost.

“Right now, it is sporadic, depending on the site you are at. You may have free Wi-Fi or options to pay through your provider,” she tells us.

Melanie Kearns with the Canadian Liver Foundation says this should be looked into because Internet access makes a big difference for patients.

“For someone who is going to be in and out of hospital or in hospitals for a very long time, it would be good for them to be able to keep connected to with the outside world and to their support networks. It is how people communicate with their family and friends.”

She tells us this access is important for younger patients. “Kids especially are the ones, have grown up on the Internet. They are on social media and connecting with their friends and that is how they feel like normal kids.”

Kearns adds Wi-Fi would also allow visitors and patients to work remotely from the hospital.

White notes Wi-Fi is available for physicians and health care providers so they can access information for direct patient care. She says PHSA’s top priority is taking care of people’s health needs and giving Internet access to patients and visitors is secondary.

However, she says it is looking into cost-effective ways to install it. “We do understand patients and families rely on Internet to manage their daily life.”

White says you might have Wi-Fi in the lobby of one hospital but not throughout the rest of the facility. PHSA does not have a list of which hospital have that, but it would be most of the bigger ones, like Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul’s.