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RTLS Helps Florida Clinic Maintain Small Clinic Feel

A system from Vizzia Technologies using CenTrak hybrid IR and RFID technology helps the 36,000-square-foot facility to identify the locations of patients and health-care workers, to ensure personalized and timely care.
By Claire Swedberg

With the system in place, a patient, upon arrival, presents a card printed with an ID number, which a staff member enters into the Vizzion Suite software. The software is integrated with the clinic's electronic health records system, according to Samantha Watkins, the FCS director responsible for managing daily operations at five clinics within a region that includes Tampa and the surrounding Hillsborough County. The software pulls up the card's ID (linked to that patient's profile), and a staff member scans the bar-coded serial number printed on the front of the CenTrak tag, linking the tag ID number with that patient's ID. The tag is handed to the patient, who can then wear it either on a lanyard or clipped to clothing. The tag transmits its unique ID number, via active 900 MHz RFID, to readers installed throughout the facility.

CenTrak Gen2IR monitors were installed on the ceiling within each of the 33 exam rooms, as well as in larger multi-patient rooms—such as a chemotherapy room broken into pods—with virtual walls to identify a specific pod within the room. The Gen2IR monitors, which are approximately the size and shape of a smoke detector, are powered by batteries. Each monitor transmits its ID number via an infrared (IR) signal that fills a room. The tag's built-in IR sensor receives the monitor's ID and transmits that information, along with its own unique identifier, to the nearest RFID reader. The reader forwards that data to the server, via a cabled connection, where Vizzion Suite software determines the room—or the specific spot within that room—in which the tag is located. To provide more granular data, Vizzia also installed CenTrak Virtual Wall monitors, which emit a unique IR signal that covers a limited area, such as around a treatment area or hallway between two examination rooms.

FCS' Samantha Watkins
Physicians and nurses also wear the badges, thereby enabling the software to track how long a particular patient awaited treatment before a health-care provider visited his or her examining room. It also enables staff members to find colleagues in real time. For example, if a patient calls for a specific physician via telephone, personnel can view in which room that doctor is located at that moment, thus ensuring that they not disturb multiple patients in an effort to find that physician.

The analytics provided by the solution to date have helped the clinic identify areas in which improvement may be necessary, Watkins reports. By analyzing the collected data, she says, the facility knows which personnel tend to run behind in their schedules, allowing FCS to share detailed data with those staff members in order to better educate them. This helps the clinic determine when patients spend excessive amounts of time waiting to see health-care providers, and also enables more effective scheduling based on the times of day, or the specific days, on which work typically becomes backed up.

The greatest challenge, Watkins says, involved explaining the technology to patients so that they understood why they were being tracked. However, she notes, the patients responded well to the technology once they understood it. "I would say the technology definitely enhances the entire patient flow," she states. The Florida Cancer Specialists and Research Institute is now evaluating whether the solution would benefit some of its other clinics, of which there are more than 60 throughout the state.

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