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Lehigh Valley Hospital to Use RFID to Manage OR Patients

The hospital group will use active UWB tags to track patients' locations in real time, and to document the status of their care.
By Beth Bacheldor
Apr 17, 2007Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network (LVHHN), a group of three hospitals in eastern Pennsylvania, is gearing up to track its surgical patients with an ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID system. The hospital network hopes the technology will improve communication among staff and with patients' families and friends, ultimately providing better, more efficient care.

LVHHN is working with Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS), which is providing its Amelior ORTracker software to monitor the physical locations of patients, as well as the status of their care, from pre-op to surgery and on to post-op. Operating room (OR) nurses, for example, can use computers equipped with the software to pull up surgery schedules, patient data and maps, then determine if a particular patient has been cleared for surgery by the staging department (where patients go to be checked and readied for their operations).

Lehigh Valley Hospital plans to use active UWB tags to track patients in real time and document their care.

PCTS' system will track tags from Parco Wireless. 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.

With such easy access to real-time information, LVHHN hopes to improve communication. "Our primary motivation for going into this is to be able to enhance communication between departments and the care providers, regarding the status of patients, as well as communicate with families about the status of the patients," says Brian Leader, administrator of perioperative services at LVHHN. "Now, if you want to find out about a patient, you typically have to page someone by picking up a phone and dialing a number. Then you have to wait for the person to call back. With the Amelior ORTracker system, everyone can simultaneously see the patients' status."

Once a patient checks in to an LVHHN hospital for a scheduled operation, a receptionist will input that person's data into Amelior ORTracker, Leader explains, which will be shared with staff in the staging department. The staging department will then retrieve the patient, who will be given a battery-powered UWB RFID badge, a little smaller than a credit card, with a unique ID number associated with an ID number in LVHHN's OR scheduling system.

LVHHN still hasn't decided if the badge will be clipped to a patient's hospital gown, or to the IV pump assigned to that patient. Regardless, every badge will include several buttons, each of which will be used to document specific procedures. For example, once an anesthesiologist checked in with a patient, a nurse would press a particular button, causing the badge to transmit a time-stamp, along with its ID number, to various receivers positioned throughout the OR department, documenting that the event has occurred. A nurse would later push a separate button once the patient had been cleared and was ready for surgery.

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