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RTLS Brings Efficiency to Dorset County Hospital

The U.K. facility has deployed Stanley Healthcare's AeroScout Wi-Fi-based real-time location system to enable software to pinpoint the location of assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 15, 2013Two years after installing a real-time location system (RTLS) to track its assets, British hospital Dorset County Hospital National Health Services Foundation Trust (DCHFT) says the RTLS has increased the efficiency of its staff by cutting the time spent looking for assets. Stanley Healthcare's Wi-Fi-based RTLS Asset Tracking & Management solution was installed by Stoneleigh Consultancy, a British IT consultant and wireless specialist. Based on preliminary success with the system, the publicly funded general hospital now intends to expand the system by covering more equipment and tracking assets through maintenance.

The technology consists of Stanley Healthcare's AeroScout T2s Wi-Fi RFID tags, AeroScout ultrasound exciters and AeroScout MobileView software, residing on Dorset County Hospital's back-end system to manage read data, display locations of assets, store a history of that movement and enable on-demand reports.

Dorset County Hospital, in the city of Dorchester, comprises 400 patient beds, and seven operating suites, in three connected wings. The hospital found it challenging to keep tabs on its mobile equipment, such as radiology scanners, X-ray machines, ultrasound devices, infusion pumps, wheelchairs and iPads. With an RTLS system, says Brian Stalker, the hospital's ICT infrastructure manager, it could increase efficiency by ensuring equipment could be found more quickly, and also reduce the need to replace lost equipment.

Traditionally, managing mobile assets was a labor-intensive task for the hospital's nursing and technician staff. "The equipment was previously tracked using a combination of logbooks and legwork," Stalker says. If an item went missing, employees simply walked around the facility looking for it. Not only did such searches require the nurses to take time away from their primary job of caring for patients, they also meant that medical devices might be hard to find quickly, potentially causing a delay in care during an emergency.

Prior to the Stanley system's installation in 2011, the hospital had tried using a different RTLS solution to address these problems, but it later determined that the system was not accurate enough to identify the location of a tagged item so that it could be easily located. Therefore the hospital went to Stanley Healthcare for a Wi-Fi-based solution that would leverage the site's Cisco Unified Wi-Fi network. "We needed to carefully integrate it with the existing wireless network," says Stalker, "taking into account devices such as laptops and telephones already using the network."

To accomplish this, the hospital updated the positioning and strength of some its Wi-Fi access points and installed additional access points to gain the accuracy the hospital needed. The hospital then attached a battery-powered T2s tag to each asset, and linked the tag's unique ID to data about the asset in the MobileView software. The tag transmits its unique identifier to the Wi-Fi nodes throughout the hospital. In addition, Stanley Healthcare installed ultrasound exciters throughout the facility. Each exciter transmits an ultrasonic signal encoded with its own ID number. When a T2s RFID tag comes within range of an exciter, it receives the exciter's ID number. This enables the system to pinpoint the location of an asset at a higher level of granularity than it could otherwise.

When seeking an asset, staff members simply sign into the MobileView software and input the item being sought. MobileView then displays a map depicting the hospital floors, with an icon indicating the location of that item.

Since the system was installed, Stalker says the technology has increased efficiency, although he declined to indicate by exactly how much. Because the technology is working well, he says, the hospital has begun applying tags to additional assets and intends to use the system to record when assets are sent to the maintenance and repair department, to help ensure that each asset is serviced in a timely manner.
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