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RFID Helps York Improve Patient Safety, Satisfaction

A Wi-Fi-based system enables the 580-bed Pennsylvania hospital to better manage its assets, allowing its staff to focus more on patients than on equipment.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 28, 2009Wellspan Health's York Hospital located in York, Pa., is employing a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) provided by AeroScout to better manage assets at its 580-bed facility. The system is the result of a cooperative effort between the hospital's biomedical engineering, emergency and transportation departments, which all state they are benefiting from knowing where their critical medical equipment is located.

The 1.2-million-square-foot hospital, with nine floors and 11 buildings, treats 80,000 patients each year, 28 percent of whom are admitted. The facility's emergency department recently upgraded to a Level 1 trauma center—one of two such centers in south-central Pennsylvania.

To develop the system, AeroScout worked closely with the biomedical, emergency and transportation departments, each of which had its own challenges. The emergency department wanted quick access to equipment for treating critically ill or injured patients. Depending on an individual's condition and treatment needs, such equipment might include infusion, feeding, patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) or syringe pumps, as well as circulatory assist devices, wheelchairs or gurneys. Requests for equipment go directly to the biomedical engineering department, which is responsible for providing these items, in addition to cleaning and repairing them. This placed a time-consuming burden on the biomedical department, says Chad Noll, Wellspan's manager of biomedical engineering.

The department commonly received dozens of calls each day for specific pieces of equipment. What's more, items could sometimes be retrieved only by sending an employee to walk the hallways in search of what was needed. The transportation department, which is responsible for moving patients from one department to another, had similar problems tracking wheelchairs and gurneys, which its staff required to move patients around throughout the day.

In 2008, the departments combined efforts, with biomedical at the lead, to seek a solution. Ultimately, they worked with AeroScout to develop a system that employed the hospital's existing Wi-Fi infrastructure to receive signals from the RFID tags. In July 2009, the hospital began installing extra Wi-Fi access points, as well as tagging gurneys, infusion pumps, feeding pumps, portable physiological monitors and circulatory assistance pumps. The system went live in August.

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