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U.K. Hospital Pilots RFID for Bed and Hoist Tracking

Heart of England NHS Trust is using active RFID tags and readers from Harland Simon at one of its three hospitals to determine how well the technology helps manage the facility's 2,000 beds and hoists, to ensure they can be found, inspected and maintained in a timely manner.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 15, 2015

The Heart of England NHS Trust's estates department (responsible for managing the trust's hospital buildings, infrastructure and equipment) is piloting radio frequency identification technology at Good Hope Hospital to locate and manage its beds. The RFID system will track both standard and specialized beds, as well as hoists used to lift patients onto and off of them. Once fully deployed, the solution will track approximately 2,000 beds and hoists across the three hospitals, based on the pilot's results.

About a year ago, the trust's clinical engineering department—which manages mobile medical devices, such as infusion pumps and monitors—deployed an active RFID system provided by Harland Simon. It has attached active 2.4 GHz tags, which use a proprietary air-interface protocol, to each of about 2,000 medical devices, and is currently tracking their locations and movements among different sites within the three hospitals that make up the trust.

Good Hope Hospital's staff use a Bluetooth-enabled handheld reader loaded with Discovery software to find specific items or collect inventory data.
David Smith, the estates manager at the Heart of England NHS Trust, says that based on the system's effectiveness at monitoring medical devices, the estates department is now piloting the same technology for its beds and hoists. Smith's goal is to reduce the amount of time that the department's engineers spend searching for beds to conduct maintenance and inspections, and to ensure that beds do not become overlooked and thus miss those inspections. In the latter case, the concern is that a bed could be unsafe for use if not properly inspected. Inspections are scheduled twice annually for each bed.

"If you can't find the beds, they might not be maintained," Smith explains, "and that could be a safety issue."

The solution, known as RFID Discovery, consists of proprietary readers deployed throughout the hospitals, as well as Discovery software residing on the departments' own servers. Andy James, Harland Simon's sales manager for RFID Discovery, says that for the Good Hope deployment, the RFID Discovery software is integrated with the hospital's Qube Global facilities-management software. In that way, staff members can look up a specific bed or hoist in the management software, along with its maintenance history, and view its location based on RFID Discovery read data.

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