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MetroHealth to Get Active/Passive RFID

The 731-bed Cleveland teaching hospital is implementing a real-time locating system using both active Wi-Fi-based tags and passive RFID tags to track and find assets.
By Beth Bacheldor
May 12, 2006Trying to locate one of only three portable ultrasound machines in the new 55,000-square-foot emergency department at MetroHealth Medical Center can be like trying to find a hypodermic needle in a haystack. That's about to change, though.

The 731-bed Cleveland teaching hospital is implementing a real-time locating system (RTLS) that leverages both active and passive RFID tags to track and find ultrasound machines, electrocardiogram (EKG) carts, suture carts and other assets.


The new system will help nurses, doctors and other employees find necessary medical equipment instantly.
"We were used to being crammed in like sardines, but the nice thing was, you pretty much could stand in the middle of the department and see everyone and everything," says Barbara West, MetroHealth's administrator of emergency medicine and ambulatory support services. "Two years ago, we opened our new emergency department, and immediately the size of the department and geographic area almost doubled, and nobody could find anything."

MetroHealth is buying its new RFID-based RTLS from PanGo Networks, a Framingham, Mass., technology firm specializing in asset-location software. The system will help nurses, doctors and other employees find necessary medical equipment instantly. For example, a doctor checking on a patient complaining of an earache could use the RTLS application to find the emergency department's Tono-Pen tonometer, an instrument shaped like a thick ballpoint pen, used to measure intraocular pressure. "We only have one Tono-Pen, and not having it readily available is significant. We waste doctors' and nurses' time if it can't be found," says West. "The new system is going to save so much time, energy and frustration."

By midsummer, MetroHealth hopes to have active 2.45 GHz RFID tags placed on select equipment, which can then send data to Wi-Fi access points already installed for the hospital's existing wireless LAN. Employees will be able to go to any of the department's 125 computers, click on an icon that brings up the RTLS application and query the system to locate equipment.

MetroHealth also plans to use passive RFID tags on certain devices, such as 40 department mobile phones used while employees are on the premises, to keep them from inadvertently being taken off the premises.

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