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Wired vs Wireless Nurse Call Systems

nurse's hand on a phone as part of nurse call system

Effective nurse call systems are an essential component of communication, safety, and overall care for any facility with patients or residents. There are many options available and they tend to fall into two categories – wired and wireless. Both are good solutions, but one could be a better fit for your facility depending on several factors. When it comes to wired vs wireless nurse call systems, here’s what you need to know:

Pros & Cons of Wired Nurse Call Systems

Hardwired emergency call systems provide several benefits and also have their drawbacks. Here are some pros and cons of wired nurse call systems:

3 Pros of a Wired Nurse Call System

Here are some of the advantages of a wired nurse call system:

1. It Usually Requires Less Ongoing Maintenance

Although a wired nurse call system generally requires more on the installation side than a wireless system, it also usually requires slightly less ongoing maintenance than a wireless system.

You don’t need to worry about changing batteries and the devices tend to be simpler and cheaper. This can make ongoing operating costs a little lower.

2. Wired Systems Can be More Reliable

In some ways, a wired system can be considered to be more reliable than a wireless call system. Wired signals are not susceptible to interference the way radio signals are. Since the devices do not run on battery power, you also do not need to be concerned with low batteries interfering with signal strength or device function.

3. Most Wired Systems Meet Regulations

Because wired systems are more traditional and operate on more well-known technology, they are sometimes required by regulations and may be the preferred system in some applications.

This tends to be more common in skilled nursing applications and facilities. Although there are many wireless nurse call solutions that do meet regulations and compliance for these applications, there can still be a preference for wired systems in certain facilities.

3 Cons of a Wired Nurse Call System

Here are some potential cons of a wired nurse call system:

1. Wired Nurse Call Systems Require More Installation

Because cables need to be installed, a wired nurse call system usually requires more effort and time when it comes to installation. This is generally straightforward when it’s done during the construction process as you can hide cables in walls and floors as they are built.

However, it can be a challenge to install a wired system in an existing and operating facility. Contractors will be in your facility in addition to staff and patients or residents. You will need to move people around as installation occurs.

Even if you aren’t installing cables behind walls and under floorboards, installers will still need to take up space and time to place and run cables. Using this trunking method can help make installation easier, but it also usually doesn’t look great even if it’s small and low profile.

For some facilities, this is an obstacle that isn’t worth it. In those scenarios, a wireless nurse call system is generally a better fit because the installation is easier and requires less interruption of day-to-day function.

2. It Requires Electricity to Keep Running

While a wireless system runs on batteries and electricity, a wired system tends to run only electricity. Usually, this isn’t a problem. But, it can become a problem if a power outage occurs or if there is a single point of failure that shuts down the system.

Most facilities and products have solutions to sustain critical life safety & security systems during power outages. You will just need to make sure that you have a backup plan for your wired nurse call system in case of a power outage or point of failure.

3. Changes or Modifications can be Difficult

Because devices remain fixed where they are installed in a wired system, it is less flexible than a wireless nurse call system. Any needed changes or modifications can be difficult and expensive, as is the case with rewiring.

If you need to move or add call points, there are challenges and obstacles to doing so with a wired system that are not present in a wireless system. There is also a risk of damage to cables in a wired call system and limited access to buried cables can make repairs a challenge.

Pros & Cons of Wireless Nurse Call Systems

Just as wired call systems provide several benefits, so do wireless emergency call systems. As with anything, they also have their drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons of wireless nurse call systems:

3 Pros of a Wireless Nurse Call System

Here are some of the advantages of a wireless nurse call system:

1. Wireless Nurse Call Systems Tend to be Easier to Install

Because you don’t need to worry about running cables to connect devices, a wireless nurse call system tends to be easier and faster to install. It can be a great fit for both existing facilities and for facilities that are under construction.

Because the installation tends to be quicker and easier, it requires less disruption, which is why wireless tends to be a better fit for facilities that are currently in operation. This is also one of the reasons to consider wireless alarm systems for your business.

2. It’s Flexible, so Changes and Modifications are Easier

With a wireless nurse call system, changes and modifications are easy and straightforward. You just update the tech or the unit as needed. If you need to add new call points to accommodate expansions or to comply with new regulations, you can add devices as required once you have the infrastructure for the wireless system in place.

With a wired system, it can be difficult to change or modify existing cables to work with a room if you need to change the layout. Although you can add new devices or call points with a wired system, it is usually more difficult and requires more time and effort than with a wireless system.

3. Mobile Devices can be Provided to Patients or Residents

Because a wireless system is flexible and devices can change and move, you are also able to provide mobile devices to patients or residents. This can help give patients or residents more freedom and independence while also increasing safety. This is also why multiple call points, including mobile devices, are essential components of a nurse call system.

In this way, a wireless nurse call system can be a useful part of wander management, alerting, reporting, and more. The wireless capabilities could even be one of the security features you didn’t know your business needed!

3 Cons of a Wireless Nurse Call System

Here are some potential drawbacks of a wireless nurse call system:

1. It Requires Slightly More Ongoing Maintenance

Wireless nurse call systems do require slightly more ongoing maintenance than wired nurse call systems because you will need to monitor and maintain batteries. Partnering with the right security and communications solutions company often makes this a non-issue. Depending on the product and the company, batteries usually last for a year or two, and changing them is often included on a service contract.

2. Your Facility May Need Signal Boosters

Are wireless nurse call systems reliable? As long as they are properly installed and have the right infrastructure, yes. A wireless nurse call system relies on a strong signal to work properly. Depending on the size and layout of your facility, a wireless system may need signal boosters to ensure that all call points have enough radio signal strength.

Although this is a potential con of wireless systems, it generally is not an issue as long as the system was installed properly and has been maintained. If it was designed and installed correctly, there should be no call points in low-signal areas.

Reliance on radio signals also means that interference can be a risk and affect the reliability of a wireless system. Having supervisory capabilities in place with any wireless system you choose that will alert you when a device is not working or has a low battery can help avoid these potential issues and improve overall reliability.

3. Wireless Installation is Easy, Which Also Makes Uninstalling Easy

Although the easier installation of a wireless call system is one of its benefits, it can also be a drawback in certain applications. Because installation is more straightforward, it can be easy to uninstall or remove a unit at a call point as well. This makes a wireless system less advantageous in some healthcare applications, like mental health or rehabilitation facilities.

Should I Choose a Wired or Wireless Nurse Call System?

Each facility is different and will have specific considerations when it comes to comparing wired vs wireless nurse call systems. Although it is a broad generalization and should not be considered a strict rule, wired nurse call systems tend to be a great fit for installations in new construction while wireless nurse call systems tend to be a great fit for installations in existing facilities that are currently operating.

Depending on your facility and your needs, you also may not have to choose between them. Instead of evaluating wired vs wireless, the best fit for you could be a hybrid system that combines the best of both types of nurse call systems to improve patient safety. In some cases, a hybrid system means hardwired devices in common areas where the call point does not need to move around paired with wireless mobile devices for patients and residents.

There are many benefits of installing an emergency call system and these are all important things to consider when you are evaluating wired vs wireless nurse call systems for your facility. The best fit for you will depend on several factors.

This information can help you choose the best nurse call system for your facility. Getting it right is essential and can make a big difference in response times and efficiency as well as patient and resident safety and satisfaction.

Contact Northeast Protection Partners for a free site assessment to help determine the best security and communications solutions for your facility and your staff!