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MERS Infection Puts RTLS Technology in the Spotlight

Real-time location system vendor Versus has seen interest in its products grow following media coverage of Community Hospital's use of the technology to identify all personnel who were in contact with a MERS-infected patient.
By Claire Swedberg

The hospital not only used the RTLS solution to trace which nurses had entered the patient's room, but was also able to view video footage and review electronic health records, in order to identify anyone else without a badge who may have been within proximity of the infected individual. Thanks to the RTLS, video and EHR data, more than 50 hospital workers were tested for the virus due to their coming into contact with the patient.

The technology is primarily designed to provide location and workflow data for personnel or assets, Snowday says, but it can also serve as a safety tool for those at the facility, when used in the manner that Community Hospital did in April. Although the MERS infection raised considerable media and public interest, he notes, Versus' customers have often utilized its RTLS technology to identify potential infection transmission. He recalls a case in which a patient who had ingested a large amount of a toxic substance was off-gassing, which necessitated the identification of all hospital workers who had been in the room with that person. In the same way as Community Hospital, the health-care company was able to locate those individuals using the Versus technology. In fact, Snowday says, Versus' software comes with an Exposure Reports component enabling users to identify not only employees who have been in contact with a particular patient, but also any other individuals who have been in contact with those potentially infected workers. However, he notes, in the case of Community Hospital, the staff was simply able to use the Versus data fed to the nurse-call system to locate personnel who had been near the patient.

Versus learned of the infection and determined that the hospital in question was one of its customers, shortly before press coverage began describing how the technology was used. "My only reaction," Snowday states, "was, 'That's great, I'm glad they've got our stuff. That should help them out.'"

The high-profile nature of this incident has piqued the interest of several health-care companies, Snowday reports, adding that Versus has begun receiving calls from its customers asking about their own systems, to ensure that they could be as proactive as Community Hospital in the event of a similar situation. Non-customers have also been calling, he says.

However, Snowday mostly attributes Community Hospital's ability to response rapidly to a potential contagion to the hospital's own planning and organization, as it not only acquired technology that could help in such a scenario, but also made sure it could use that technology properly when needed. He cited a statement made by William VanNess, Indiana's Health Commissioner, during a press conference held on May 12, when the patient was released from the hospital and no other infections were found: "At this point, it appears that MERS picked the wrong hospital, the wrong state and the wrong country to try to get a foothold."

However, on May 11, a second U.S.-imported case of MERS was confirmed in a traveler who also arrived in the United States from Saudi Arabia. This patient is currently hospitalized in Orlando, Fla., and is doing well, according to the CDC's website, which indicates that the two U.S. cases are not linked.

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