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Memorial Health OR Unit Chooses UWB RFID

The surgical services department shared by the two hospitals will use ultra-wideband to track assets and staff in real time.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 16, 2007Long Beach Memorial Hospital and Miller Children's Hospital of Long Beach, Calif., are implementing an ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID system to track assets and improve operations in their shared surgical services department. Both hospitals are both part of Memorial Health Services.

The RFID tracking system includes software from Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS) and active RFID tags and interrogators provided by Parco Wireless, says John Stewart, executive director of information services for the two hospitals. At press time, neither PCTS nor Parco executives could confirm that Parco's tags and interrogators will be used in the implementation, because contracts are still being worked out. Scott Cohen, Parco's founder and CEO, says he has been told his firm is the vendor of choice, though he declines to comment further at this time.

Parco's tags operate at the 6.5 GHz band and utilize UWB technology, whereby devices emit a series of extremely short pulses (billionths of a second or shorter) across a frequency segment wider than that used by conventional RFID tags. Because Parco tags use multiple frequencies simultaneously to transmit their signals, they can transmit a greater volume of data more quickly, the company claims. In mid-2004, the vendor sold its first commercial UWB-based RTLS installation to the Washington Hospital Center (see Hospital Gets Ultra-Wideband RFID). And in September, it announced it had obtained contracts to deploy its system at more than 75 long-term-care facilities (see NYC-Area Nursing Homes to Get UWB RFID Systems).

At Long Beach Memorial and Miller Children's hospitals, the combination of PCTS tracking software and Parco UWB-based RFID tags and interrogators will be deployed to improve workflow in the operating rooms, Stewart explains. By monitoring the status and whereabouts of critical medical equipment used in the operating rooms, doctors and nurses can ensure that equipment and rooms are ready for surgical procedures. The types of equipment to be tagged include anesthesia machines, cautery machines, harmonic scalpels, orthopedic operation tools, lasers used for eye and cardiac procedures, microscopes, monitors, video units for laparoscopic surgery, warmers for solutions, slush machines to make ice for cardiac procedures and other devices.

"Lack of information on the location of a piece of equipment can require staff to waste time searching for the asset, possibly causing delays to the surgery schedule," says Stephen Armstrong, VP of marketing at PCTS. "This can then cause departments to order redundant equipment because they cannot find existing assets. With asset tracking, equipment utilization improves, maintenance can be performed more easily and staff productivity is enhanced."

The health-care organization is deploying fixed-position RFID interrogators throughout its surgery department, post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) and pre-op and post-op areas. The interrogators will periodically read the tags, each containing a unique ID number, and calculate the radius between the tag and reader. To compute the tag's location, Parco's software utilizes the radius information from at least three readers. The location is then sent via middleware to a database accessible by PCTS' Amelior ORTracker software. This allows hospital staff to check on the equipment status and location. For example, nurses can pull up a customized map of the surgical services department and drill down into individual OR suites to see whether equipment has been moved to that suite in preparation for a scheduled surgery.

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