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RFID Makes Managing Hospital Porters More Efficient

The system allows Manipal Hospital Bangalore's nurses to launch an automated search for available porters in their area, thereby reducing wait times and the need to place multiple phone calls.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 12, 2016

When Manipal Hospitals began planning a radio frequency identification installation to make its flagship hospital operate more efficiently, it had a unique approach for its multi-phased deployment. Instead of beginning with asset tracking, it aimed at a small, potentially highly beneficial solution: managing porters who transport patients, paperwork or supplies around its facility. With the real-time location system (RTLS) in place, says Nandkishor Dhomne, the Manipal hospital group's CIO, the facility has reduced each porter call and response time from 30 to 40 minutes down to only five or six minutes.

The porter-management system was provided by Icegen Computing, using Icegen's software installed on the hospital's server, in addition to Ekahau active Wi-Fi RFID badges and RTLS software to interpret the Wi-Fi signals transmitted by badges and calculate their locations. Porters are tasked with moving patients in wheelchairs and beds, as well as medicines and paperwork, throughout the hospital. The RTLS solution is designed to manage the dispatching of those porters, thereby reducing the amount of time that nurses spend waiting for them to arrive, while also reducing the number of porters required at any given time.

If a nurse requires a porter to perform a task, she opens Icegen's Porter Tracking Solution software on her desktop computer and presses a prompt to make her request. (Click on the above image to view a larger version.)
Manipal Hospitals, the third largest health-care group in India, comprises 13 hospitals, with three more currently under construction. Manipal Hospital Bangalore, located on Airport Road in Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), has 14 floors and two wings, serving approximately 2,000 patients daily. On a typical day, Dhomne says, between 1,000 and 1,500 requests are received for porters to move a patient or item from one section of the hospital to another. With the traditional, manual method of dispatching a porter, there was typically a wait of 30 to 40 minutes between the moment when a nurse called for a porter and when he actually arrived.

Manipal Hospital Bangalore contracts its porter services to a company that provides a supervisor (stationed in the hospital's control room) who dispatches orders, along with 30 employees who are onsite at any given time to respond to all orders received. The initial system required that a nurse make a phone call to the supervisor indicating what she needed—a porter to move a patient in a wheelchair or on a stretcher, for instance, or a trolley loaded with medication or paperwork. That supervisor then had to look through a paper record he maintained in order to determine which porters were free and where they should be in relation to the order. He then selected the unoccupied porter who should be closest to that location, and sent a message to that individual via a walkie-talkie to respond to the order. This process typically required several calls before the proper porter could be identified, after which the porter typically took about 15 to 20 more minutes to reach the requested location.

In the meantime, nurses often had to place multiple calls to find out when the porter was coming to pick up a patient who, for instance, may be getting frustrated with the wait.

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