Healthcare executives are continuously evaluating the subject of RFID and RTLS in general. Whether it is to maintain the hospitals competitive advantage, accomplish a differentiation in the market, improve compliance with requirements of (AORN, JCAHO, CDC) or improve asset utilization and operating efficiency. As part of the evaluations there is that constant concern around a tangible and measurable ROI for these solutions that can come at a significant price.
When considering the areas that RTLS can affect within the hospital facilities as well as other patient care units, there are at least four significant points to highlight:
Disease surveillance: With hospitals dealing with different challenges around disease management and how to handle it. RTLS technology can determine each and every staff member who could have potentially been in contact with a patient classified as highly contagious or with a specific condition.
Hand hygiene compliance: Many health systems are reporting hand hygiene compliance as part of safety and quality initiatives. Some use “look-out” staff to walk the halls and record all hand hygiene actives. However, with the introduction of RTLS hand hygiene protocol and compliance when clinical staff enter or use the dispensers can now be dynamically tracked and reported on. Currently several of the systems that are available today are also providing active alters to the clinicians whenever they enter a patient’s room and haven’t complied with the hand hygiene guidelines.
Locating equipment for maintenance and cleaning:
Having the ability to identify the location of equipment that is due for routine maintenance or cleaning is critical to ensuring the safety of patients. RTLS is capable of providing alerts on equipment to staff.
A recent case of a hospital spent two months on a benchmarking analysis and found that it took on average 22 minutes to find an infusion pump. After the implementation of RTLS, it took an average of two minutes to find a pump. This cuts down on lag time in care and can help ensure that clinicians can have the tools and equipment they need, when the patient needs it.
There are also other technologies and products which have been introduced and integrated into some of the current RTLS systems available.
There are several RTLS systems that are integrated with Bed management systems as well as EHR products that are able to deliver patient order status, alerts within the application can also be given. This has enabled nurses to take advantage of being in one screen and seeing a summary of updated patient related information.
Unified Communication systems:
Nurse calling systems have enabled nurses to communicate anywhere the device is implemented within the hospital facility, and to do so efficiently. These functionalities are starting to infiltrate the RTLS market and for some of the Unified Communication firms, it means that their structures can now provide a backbone for system integrators to simply integrate their functionality within their products.
In many of the recent implementations of RTLS products, hospital executives opted to deploy the solutions within one specific area to pilot the solutions. Many of these smaller implementations succeed and allow the decision makers to evaluate and measure the impacts these solutions can have on their environment. There are several steps that need to be taken into consideration when implementing asset tracking systems:
• Define the overall goals and driving forces behind the initiative
• Develop challenges and opportunities the RTLS solution will be able to provide
• Identify the operational area that would yield to the highest impact with RTLS
• Identify infrastructure requirements and technology of choice (WiFi based, RFID based, UC integration, interface capability requirements)
• Define overall organizational risks associated with these solutions
• Identify compliance requirements around standards of use
RFID is one facet of sensory data that is being considered by many health executives. It is providing strong ROI for many of the adapters applying it to improve care and increase efficiency of equipment usage, as well as equipment maintenance and workflow improvement. While there are several different hardware options to choose from, and technologies ranging from Wi-Fi to IR/RF, this technology has been showing real value and savings that health care IT and supply chain executives alike can’t ignore.
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