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Seton Medical Center Deploying Ultrasound and RFID Systems

The project will use an ultrasound-based, indoor-positioning technology to track assets and patients, and radio frequency identification to manage the administration of drugs.
By Beth Bacheldor
Sep 19, 2006Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, has embarked on a multiyear project that will leverage ultrasound-based indoor positioning technology and radio frequency identification to manage assets and patients. The goal: to boost the hospital's efficiency, patient safety and security.

In the first phase of the project, Seton will install an ultrasound-based indoor positioning system from Sonitor Technologies, as well as asset-management software from RedPrairie. The medical center is part of the Seton Family of Hospitals, a not-for-profit organization owned by Ascension Health, which provides health-care services in central Texas and serves a population of 1.4 million.

Sonitor Technologies' ultrasound system uses ID tags that emit acoustic analog signals to determine the rooms in which assets are located. The medical center has also started planning the second phase of the project, in which it will use the ultrasound tags on patients to help locate them for treatment, and to ensure their safety. Finally, as part of phase three, the center plans to add passive RFID to the mix to ensure patients are given the proper medicines.

Seton will affix Sonitor Technologies' battery-powered ultrasound ID tags, operating at a frequency of 35 kHz to 45 kHz, to approximately 2,600 pieces of equipment. Devices to be tagged will include IV pumps, pain-medication pumps, blood-pressure monitors, thermometers and specialized wheelchairs, according to Jeff Falwell, a senior project consultant with Dell Professional Services. Seton outsourced its IT to Dell about two years ago.

Each tag is about the size of a AA battery cut in half, with the two parts set side by side, and will be set to emit a signal every five seconds. The signals will be picked up by 1,020 strategically placed receivers, in every one of the more than 400 patient rooms, with four more in each hallway. Each signal is unique, and the receivers convert the analog signals into digital numbers. The tags will also emit their signals if tampered with, or if the item to which they are affixed is moved.

The Sonitor receivers will send their location information and the tag ID numbers via the Power-over-Ethernet network to RedPrairie's Mobile Resource Solution asset-management software. With that software, nurses and doctors will be able to use any computer in the hospital to search for equipment by perusing a menu of pick lists and clicking on the equipment they're trying to locate. The software has a mapping function, allowing it, for example, to illustrate digitally all rooms containing IV pumps, says Jim Dachelet, CIO of RadiantWave, which is providing design, integration, installation and consulting services. Seton staffers will be able to search by vendors, serial numbers and other criteria. Seton expects the ultrasound indoor positioning system to be up and running by Thanksgiving. Falwell says the system will help Seton more efficiently use the medical equipment, which is leased.

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