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Spartanburg Medical Center Deploys Wi-Fi RFID System

The hospital, now using its Wi-Fi network to track infusion pumps, plans to expand the technology so it can also track other assets, along with surgical patients and staff.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 05, 2007To help serve its patients better, Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, located in Spartanburg, S.C., is using a Wi-Fi network and a new active RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) from McKesson. Currently, Spartanburg is utilizing the system to track the whereabouts of more than 550 intravenous (IV) infusion pumps throughout its 1.2 million-square-foot facility so they can be properly maintained and accounted for.

The initiative has been up and running since September and is bolstering an initiative to improve patient safety by providing the hospital with the whereabouts of computer-based infusion pumps, which periodically require software upgrades. "We have a very strong patient-safety initiative going on here, and one of the technologies we implemented several years ago were these smart pumps for infusions," says Ray Shingler, Spartanburg's CIO. "These all require software upgrades, but when it came time to do an upgrade, we weren't able to find them."

McKesson's Ben Sperling
To that end, the hospital worked with McKesson, a pharmaceutical distributor and information technology provider to the health-care industry, to implement the company's new Horizon real-time location system. The RTLS leverages Spartanburg's 802.11 Wi-Fi network, which the hospital installed in 1997, as well as active 2.4 GHz RFID tags from Ekahau that comply with the 802.11g protocol.

Once every hour, as well as six seconds after the tagged pump comes to rest following movement, the tags emit their unique ID numbers to 340 Wi-Fi access points situated throughout the hospital. "How often tags emit a signal is customizable, but we decided, instead of trying to track the pumps in real-time, we [would] just track them periodically and after they've been moved," says Jesse White, the hospital's senior network engineer. In so doing, the hospital can preserve the battery life of each tag, which White says is supposed to last for two years.

About 80 percent of the access points used by the RTLS were already installed as part of the existing Wi-Fi network, White says, but Spartanburg added an additional group of access points to provide complete coverage across the hospital.

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