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Nicklaus Children's Hospital Uses NFC Tags, BLE Beacons to Manage Inspections, Assets

The technology includes NFC RFID tags for facilitating inspections and a beacon-based RTLS solution for identifying the locations of assets, personnel and patients.
By Claire Swedberg

The EOC surveys are presently underway in only a few rooms, Perdomo says, but they are expected to go live in 172 rooms once the six-story patient tower opens later this year. To date, he says, the quantity of deficiencies that employees accurately note during inspections—everything from a cracked ceiling tile to a hand hygiene container requiring refilling—has increased four-fold with the new technology.

Throughout the past year, Nicklaus Children's Hospital has also been using the system to manage the inspections of its crash carts. Each cart must be inspected daily to ensure that it contains the correct medications and equipment, that all are functional and that nothing has expired. First, a user taps his or her phone against the passive NFC RFID tag on the cart to gain access to that cart's inspection instructions via the INSIGHT app. The worker then follows those instructions, inputting such information as a medication being missing or nearing expiration. As with room inspections, the system saves the cart-inspection data so that the hospital has a record of who carried out each inspection, and when it took place.

This summer, the hospital expects to deploy about 3,000 BLE beacon tags, including those attached to patient wristbands.
If employees fail to inspect a given cart by a specified time, the system can issue an alert to a supervisor. Alerts can then be sent to other supervisors at preset times later in the day if the cart remains uninspected. All alerts and requirements are specified in the survey, and a user can set up the alerts according to preferences. Each cart also has a BLE tag to track its location. By using the system to monitor crash carts, Martinez says, the hospital is now assured that each cart is being inventoried daily, and that a digital record is available to Joint Commission inspectors if requested.

"What we have is a very efficient process," Perdomo says, "but it took time getting the inventory up to date." That meant that to prepare for the INSIGHT solution's launch, employees had to account for every item within each cart, remove any that were expired or not needed in a particular cart, and set up a list of items that could be easily reviewed on a tablet, phone screen or computer dashboard. While cart inspections previously took 15 minutes to accomplish manually, the process now takes only two to three minutes to complete using the NFC-based system, and a record is automatically created of that action. Perdomo predicts the system will save nurses 3,000 to 4,000 hours each year that they would previously have spent checking crash cart inventory.

A BLE RTLS deployment has also been in place for a year in the hospital's emergency department. Assets such as wheelchairs and pumps are tagged with Quuppa's BLE tags, Martinez says, while a few personnel are wearing the BLE tag attached to a badge to identify their location when they meet with a patient. In the future, patients will wear the BLE wristband. The Quuppa BLE tags will eventually be replaced with Nesa Solutions' proprietary tags, Salem says. About 100 Quuppa locators have been installed throughout the hospital to date, including 34 within its 25,000-square-foot emergency department, to communicate with BLE tags attached to staff badges, patient wristbands and hospital assets. By this summer, the facility expects to be using a total of about 3,000 BLE tags.

Nesa Solutions' Neil Salem
The hospital plans to implement a hand hygiene monitoring application during the next few months, with each employee wearing a BLE badge tag that would transmit an ID number linked to that person's name and title. Upon entering a patient's room, a worker would first proceed to the hand hygiene dispenser and press its lever. (In the future, NFC RFID tags could be used to eliminate the need for such a lever.) The INSIGHT system would receive an indication that the dispenser was being used, and would link that action with the ID number transmitted by that individual's BLE badge tag.

By the third quarter of this year, Martinez says, the new bed tower will be open and the BLE RTLS solution will be in place throughout that part of the facility as well. He expects between 60,000 and 70,000 items to be tagged and tracked via the beacons deployed throughout the facility. In addition, he anticipates having approximately 3,000 beacon-enabled hand hygiene stations in place.

"This is still just the discovery phase for us," Martinez states. "We're still in the process of improvement, but our expectations are being met."

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