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Lady of Lourdes Medical Center Implements RFID-Based Asset Tracking

The New Jersey hospital expects to significantly reduce the time spent searching for equipment, as well as cut equipment rental and replacement costs and curtail the spread of infection.
By Beth Bacheldor
Dec 05, 2007Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, a 410-bed regional hospital in Camden, N.J., is implementing a real-time location system (RTLS) to track a variety of mobile equipment and hospital assets so they're easier to find and maintain.

The facility, part of the Lourdes Health System, is deploying an RTLS from RadarFind that leverages active ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders operating at 902 to 928 MHz and using multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) communication. MIMO is a wireless communication technique utilizing multiple analog signal paths among multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to transmit data. The RadarFind asset tags feature sliding switches that nurses can activate to indicate whether an asset is in use, requires cleaning or is ready for use.

"Our objective is to reduce the burden on the nursing staff from chasing the equipment needed for direct patient care," says Maureen Hetu, CIO at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center. The hospital will employ about 1,000 tags in the initial installation to track specialty beds, stretchers, mobile telemetry monitors, IV pumps and wheelchairs. Each tag contains a unique identifier associated with a serial number encoded to a 2-D bar-code label also affixed to the item. The bar-code number is then associated to information in a back-end database, thus linking the tag to a particular device, as well as related information, such as the item's serial number, make and manufacturer.

About 500 RadarFind interrogators will be installed throughout the hospital to track items at the room level, Hetu says, though exact deployment locations are still being worked out. The readers pass along the ID numbers culled from the tags to collectors, which are devices that manage multiple readers (RadarFind suggests installing one collector per floor). The interrogators can communicate with the collectors either by transmitting their data over the air using the 902-928 MHz UHF band or by sending special data signals over the hospital's power lines. The collectors then pass the data, via a local area network, to a RadarFind server.

RadarFind will also be integrated with the hospital's equipment repair and preventative maintenance system, so the current location of the equipment will be available when the engineering staff needs to perform a repair or conduct preventative maintenance.

Nurses and staff in the biomedical engineering or central supply divisions, as well as at the receiving dock, will use RadarFind to track the equipment's real-time location, including its movement and utilization, and be able to monitor and find items in need of repair or scheduled maintenance. By sliding a switch on the tag, the nurses will be able to immediately let the hospital's engineering staff know that a specific item needs to be repaired, as well as where it's located. "Equipment impacted by recall notices can be located and remediated quickly," Hetu adds, "reducing the risk that a patient is harmed."

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