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Health Facility Uses RTLS to Provide 'Concierge' Care

In Houston, a freestanding provider of emergency and diagnostic services leverages a real-time location system to offer a higher level of personalized health care.
By Beth Bacheldor
Oct 09, 2007The Emergency Health Centre at Willowbrook, a freestanding provider of 'concierge' emergency, diagnostic and imaging services recently built in Houston, is using a real-time location system (RTLS) to improve its patient care. Concierge medical practices aim to offer a higher level of personalized care not typically found in a hospital-based emergency room.

To help it achieve that mission, Emergency Health Centre (EHC) will use the RTLS system to track how long patients wait before receiving care, as well as which caregivers are treating patients and how much time they spend with them. The system also alerts hospital employees when beds and rooms have been cleaned and are ready for incoming patients.

The RTLS combines Sonitor's ultrasound-based indoor positioning system (IPS) with Amelior EDTracker software from Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS). Amelior EDTracker is designed to enable emergency departments to monitor and analyze patients' physical locations, as well as the status of their care, then display that information in charts and graphs via LCD screens and computers located throughout the hospital.

Sonitor's IPS utilizes battery-powered tags that transmit 20 kHz to 40 kHz acoustic signals to receivers. Through frequency modulation, each tag communicates a unique signal to the receivers, which employ Sonitor's patented Digital Signal Processing (DSP) algorithms to calculate the signals' locations and convert them to data. The receivers then transmit the location and tag data via an existing LAN to a central computer.

EHC opened on Sept. 1 with a strategic mission to get patients out of the waiting area and into a treatment room within 30 minutes of arrival. The facility is open around the clock. "Our aim is to provide better service to patients," says Monty Queener, EHC's chief technology officer. To that end, EHC has set several milestones, such as ensuring that a nurse attend to a patient within three minutes of when that person is placed in a room. "If that doesn't happen," Queener says, "on the [LCD] tracking board that everyone can see, a nursing icon will start flashing."

All patients receive tags upon admission. Each tag contains a clip so it can be attached to clothing. During admission, the tag's unique ID number is associated with the patient's name and other information. Physicians, nurses, technicians, patient liaisons and housekeeping staff also have tags with unique ID numbers, which are associated in the back-end system with employee information and roles. The tags are later cleaned and reused once the patients are discharged.

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