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PinnacleHealth Pushes Ahead With RFID

The health-care organization is using active 433 MHz tags to track 23,000 surgical patients annually, and nearly 2,500 of its assets, with plans to tag 5,500 additional items.
By Beth Bacheldor
Feb 06, 2007For two years, PinnacleHealth has been using RFID to track thousands of surgical patients being admitted, operated on and released from the surgical department after recovery. The RFID implementation has been so valuable that the health-care provider has since added equipment tracking, and is now about one-third of the way through tagging about 8,000 items, from beds to intravenous (IV) pumps.

The hospital group, located in central Pennsylvania, is using RFID technology from Radianse at Harrisburg Campus, in the downtown area, and Community Campus, just outside the city. The organization also operates three other facilities: Polyclinic Campus, an outpatient clinic with specialty hospital services in downtown Harrisburg; Seidle Campus, a hospital in Mechanicsburg; and Cumberland Campus, a physician office building and outpatient clinic, also in Mechanicsburg.

The Radianse patient- and asset-tracking system includes active 433 MHz tags and receivers designed to read the tags' unique ID numbers. The receivers—small box-shaped devices mounted on the walls—plug into the hospital's local area network and relay the RFID data collected to a Radianse server.

The night before patients check in to the surgery unit, the hospital assigns that patient a tag, which is clipped to the patient's chart, says Tina Frank, surgical services project specialist at PinnacleHealth. The tag's number is associated to the patient in the hospital's Pathfinder patient-tracking system, supplied by PeriOptimum. It is then integrated with the hospital's surgical scheduling system, provided by Per-Se Technologies (recently acquired by McKesson).

On the day the patient checks in to the surgical department, the receptionist pulls up the scheduling system and clicks an icon, time-stamping the patient's admission. As the patient moves into pre-op, the tag is clipped to the patient's IV pump, which is documented by a receiver in the pre-op area. Subsequently, receivers in the operating room, recovery area and phase-2 recovery area—where a patient is eventually discharged from the surgical unit and moved to a regular hospital room—read the tag as the patient moves through those different areas. This creates a real-time trail of the patient's care.

A plasma screen in each area shows caregivers where patients are at any given time, providing a bird's-eye view of how patient flow is going. Through the integration of Radianse's software and the PathFinder patient-tracking system, the screens display a grid of the OR schedule. Underneath that, it shows a grid of what is actually happening, using the real-time data collected by the RFID tags and readers.

"If you have an emergency case or add-on case, you can quickly look and see how that case will fit in," Frank explains.

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