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Altru Health Uses RTLS to Provide Patient Updates to Visitors, Track Assets

The Wi-Fi-based system, from Ekahau, also enables a security application, whereby employees can summon help via their RTLS badges.
By Claire Swedberg
May 12, 2014

Altru Hospital, an acute care and rehabilitation facility in Grand Forks, N.D., has installed a real-time location system (RTLS) that not only tracks assets, but also provides data regarding patients to visitors, security to some employees, and temperature conditions within some refrigerators. The system, provided by RTLS company Ekahau, includes Wi-Fi-based active RFID badges worn by visitors as they move through hundreds of distinct zones throughout the facility. Those tags are read via the hospital's Wi-Fi network, and data related to the read events is managed on the Ekahau Vision software residing on the hospital's server.

Altru Health Systems, which runs the hospital, along with several dozen clinics throughout North Dakota and Minnesota, serves 409,000 outpatients and 13,927 inpatients annually. Altru Hospital houses 277 patient beds and is adjoined by clinics and a rehabilitation center. In addition, says Clyde Strand, Altru Health's biomedical engineering manager, Altru Health recently opened a new facility—the Altru Specialty Center—with 65 beds, also in Grand Forks but on a different campus, and the Wi-Fi badge tags are being used for visitor notification at that facility as well.

Altru attached Ekahau A4 tags to the backs of its intravenous pumps.
In 2011, the organization first began seeking an RTLS solution to help it track assets at Altru Hospital. Personnel were spending a great deal of time searching for standard and specialty beds, as well as wheelchairs, pumps and ventilators, throughout the 432,000-square-foot facility, either because nurses needed the equipment for a patient, or because the central processing department required those items for cleaning or maintenance.

The B4 badge tag
According to Strand, Ekahau was the only RTLS company willing to go onsite and provide a live demonstration, and Altru was pleased with what it saw. The hospital launched the Ekahau Vision system that year, but found that its existing Wi-Fi network did not provide sufficient location data regarding items' locations. For the solution to work well, Strand explains, the hospital required room-level accuracy, by means of the zones that the facility had set up (a zone could be a patient room or a laboratory, for example). That necessitated the triangulation of numerous Wi-Fi nodes throughout the hospital.

Consequently, Altru Health put the RTLS project on hold until it added Wi-Fi access points. It now has approximately 200 Cisco-provided access points in place, with the greatest density at the hospital itself, where the zones are smaller than in areas such as the clinics and rehabilitation areas. By 2013, the system was back in operation, tracking Ekahau active A4 Wi-Fi-based asset tags and B4 badge tags for employees who worked at the psychiatric ward or some of the clinics. The B4 badge can be worn in a person's pocket, explains Mark Norris, Ekahau's president and CEO, and has a ring that a wearer can pull to trigger an emergency alert. That alert would then be forwarded to other B4 badges worn by the security staff, and would also be displayed on management's computers (in both cases, indicating where the emergency was occurring). About 12 security badges are now in use, Strand says.

USER COMMENTS

Jose Francisco Sanchez Cu 2014-05-15 10:52:42 AM
How much cost it?

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