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Denmark's Mega Hospital Works on Mega RFID Deployment

When New University Hospital's construction is completed in 2019, planners expect 350,000 assets and individuals will be tagged and 2,500 fixed readers will be installed.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 04, 2016

Once construction is completed, Denmark's New University Hospital (DNU) is expected to be the largest facility of its kind throughout Northern Europe, with a capacity for treating approximately 100,000 inpatient visitors annually and another 900,000 as outpatients. DNU will include an automated system to ensure that it can manage the mammoth amount of assets and individuals moving around its facility. About one-fourth of the construction work is now finished, with the entire facility anticipated be in operation in 2019. The RFID deployment is currently in its first phase.

DNU's management forecasts that tracking people and assets around the mega hospital will be a monumental task for numerous departments. By attaching passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to equipment and then having patients and personnel wear similar tags, DNU officials expect that task will be simplified. DNU commenced its RFID installation in September 2013. Once the deployment is finished three years from now, it will include a total of 350,000 tagged assets and individuals (including 9,500 employees), the tags of which will be interrogated by 2,500 Zebra Technologies FX7500 fixed readers, each with one to three Zebra AN480 RFID antennas. This, the hospital reports, will be the world's largest RFID tracking installation of its kind.

DNU's OR planning staff view screens to identify where equipment and personnel are located.
The New University Hospital, which will serve as an expansion of the existing Aarhus University Hospital (AUH), will include four hospitals connected under a single roof, with 250,000 square meters (2.7 million square feet) of new space and 160,000 square meters (1.7 million square feet) of existing buildings (including the Danish Center for Particle Therapy) integrated into it. Altogether, it will consist of 1.2 million square meters (12.9 million square feet) of campus, with 700 parking spaces and two rooftop helipads.

If the RFID solution, which is being provided by Lyngsoe Systems, works as planned, the hospital expects the technology to reduce the amount of time that employees spend searching for assets, patients and other personnel. The system will also provide automatic alerts for equipment maintenance, repair and replacement, as well as for room cleaning. If a patient's location indicates that his or her safety is at risk, an alert can be issued as well. The RFID system will be used to optimize workflows by analyzing where delays occur, and is expected to reduce the amount of waste by making it easier to locate required items, rather than permanently losing and reordering items.

While the construction is underway, the existing 45-building Aarhus University Hospital facility is still in operation, and new sections of DNU are coming online as they are completed. To date, the logistics department, central warehouse and new walkways throughout the original hospital are in operation, with RFID readers in place, tracking the movements of tagged objects. The new Emergency Care Unit will open next year, together with surgical departments supporting that unit. RFID readers will be installed in those departments as well. Once finished, DNU will comprise more than 100 buildings.

Installation of the RFID system has been completed in DNU's receiving area for equipment and supplies, and in its internal distribution center, its major transport corridors, and selected patient wards and surgical areas. Tagged equipment includes nearly 1,000 beds, 74 trolleys (wheeled carts), 94 pieces of medical equipment and 7,000 hospital garments, as well as mobile phones, laptops, paintings, sculptures and other assets.

The goal of the first part of the RFID installation, according to Henrik Stilling, DNU's IT architect, is to determine the feasibility of installing RFID on a large scale. In the meantime, the system is tracking tagged goods as they are moved through the areas of the facility in which RFID infrastructure is already installed. DNU has installed screens around the facility that staff members can use to learn the location of equipment. In the future, it will also be able to display the status of patients, based on location data. In addition, some employees are wearing RFID tags so that they can be easily located, or assigned to a procedure if management determines—by viewing the RFID data—that there is a need for another worker in a surgical room or patient ward.

The research and development of the RFID system for the DNU expansion included observing an RFID pilot at sister facility Horsens Hospital, which has served as a test bed for new technology. Horsens is using RFID only to track personnel in its emergency-care unit, via a combination of passive and active UHF tags.

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