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Local Hospital Spearheads Mexico's Digital-Hospital Initiative

The health-care facility, located in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, is installing a Wi-Fi-based RFID system to track patients, staff and assets, as well as improve patient care.
By Beth Bacheldor
Sep 14, 2007Mexico's central western coast is known as the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila. Now, it's also home to the country's first digital hospital. General Hospital, in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, is installing active Wi-Fi-based RFID technology to track patients, staff and assets. The deployment is part of a government-led initiative designed to improve patient care via high-tech hospitals throughout the country.

General Hospital worked with AeroScout to install the vendor's RFID-enabled real-time location system (RTLS) at its two-story, 70-bed facility. The system incorporates active 2.4 GHz RFID tags and the Cisco Location Appliance, which calculates tag locations by processing data from the tags and various Cisco Wi-Fi access points. In addition, the system includes AeroScout's MobileView software, which can portray location information on a map, in a table or in a report.

Upon admission, each patient is assigned a wristband embedded with a tag containing a reusable active RFID Wi-Fi tag.
The digital-hospital initiative is driven by the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), the government-run Mexican Social Security Institute, which manages the country's public health, pensions and social security programs. In addition to the RTLS system, several other digital technologies are also in use, including 3-D imaging, which has replaced traditional X-rays; teleconferencing, allowing doctors to consult with other physicians around the world in real-time; and electronic patient files and record keeping. The hospital is leveraging a lightweight, slate-style tablet computer based on Intel's mobile clinical assistant (MCA) platform, and a Wi-Fi network, through which the AeroScout RTLS system communicates.

In early 2007, says Ricardo Berrios, managing director for AeroScout Latin America, General Hospital began deploying AeroScout's RTLS on the second floor of its facility, to track patients and staff. Several Wi-Fi access points have since been installed, enabling staff members to track patients wearing RFID wristbands as they move from their rooms to other areas, such as the imaging department. Two large LCD displays, affixed to walls, provide employees with an instant view of patients' locations, represented by icons on the screens. Caregivers can also check patient locations via hospital computers and their MCAs.

Patients are assigned RFID-enabled wristbands upon admission. Each wristband tag contains a reusable active RFID Wi-Fi tag encoded with a unique ID number associated with patient data in a back-end system. When a patient is discharged, the wristband is cut and the tag is retrieved and sterilized for use by a subsequent patient. So far, Berrios says, General Hospital has about 250 to 300 tags in circulation.

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