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Brigham and Women's Hospital Becomes Totally RTLS-enabled
The 747-bed Boston hospital has installed an RFID-based real-time location system throughout its 17 floors, enabling it to track thousands of medical devices.
Feb 20, 2008—With a months-long successful pilot now complete, Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston is taking its active RFID tracking system to new heights. The 747-bed nonprofit teaching hospital, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, has wired each of its 17 floors with a real-time location system (RTLS) from Radianse, and plans to expand the system to an adjoining facility opening this spring.
Altogether, about 8,000 medical devices will be tagged and tracked using the RTLS. Those devices include infusion pumps, continuous veno-venous hemofiltration (CVVH) machines for removing waste products from blood, and pulse oximeters that measure the oxygen saturation of a patient's blood.
Radianse's active RFID tags operate at 433 MHz and communicate with Radianse receivers via a proprietary air-interface protocol. The receivers—small box-shaped devices typically mounted on walls—plug into BWH's local area network and relay the collected RFID data to a Radianse server. The receivers can interrogate a tag from up to 50 or 60 feet away, and can pinpoint its location within an accuracy of up to 3 feet. When three or more receivers pick up a tag's ID number, Radianse software determines its location based on signal strength.
The system is in use within the hospital's emergency department, surgery units, cardiac care, perioperative units and common areas. It will also operate throughout the new facility, the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center, which will connect to the main building via a bridge and tunnel.
The hospital's initial deployment of the Radianse system took place in 2005. During that nine-month pilot, says Steve Schiefen, Radianse's chief operating officer, BWH tagged five types of equipment, covering about 350 devices. To date, says Michael Fraai, the hospital's director of biomedical engineering, BWH has tagged approximately 4,000 items.
Printed on each tag is a label printed with a bar-coded number identical to the unique ID number encoded onto the tag's RFID chip. When staffers affix an RFID tag to a device, they use a handheld bar-code scanner to record the tag's bar code. By using a bar-code reader, employees know with 100 percent certainty that the device is correctly matched to the ID of its own tag, and not to the ID number of another nearby tag.
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