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Southeast Alabama Medical Center Expands RFID Deployment

The 370-bed hospital says the deployment of Wi-Fi-based asset and temperature tags from Ekahau has made the facility more efficient.
By Claire Swedberg
The T301T tags send that temperature data every 15 minutes to the server, where Ekahau software determines whether the temperature is within an acceptable threshold. After the tag transmits a signal, Rutanen says, it receives a response from the server alerting it that its message was received. If the tag does not receive that confirmation, it continues beaconing until a response comes from the server, at which time it goes dormant for another 15 minutes.

In instances whereby a temperature threshold is breached, the Ekahau software sends an alert to the necessary parties via e-mail or pager. The tag itself has an LED and an audible buzzer, and can sound that alarm, as well as lighting the LED, if the temperature becomes too warm or too cold. In that way, a staff member near the refrigerator can be alerted to the problem without being near a computer. In addition, an employee can don an Ekahau T301BD badge tag that acts as a pager, lighting up in the event of a temperature breach.

Since the system was installed, Lapham says, he has received numerous e-mails regarding refrigerator and freezer temperatures. Some were triggered when a door was not closed properly, he explains, or when a staff member left a door open for an excessive length of time, according to follow-up investigations into the alerts. The system gives him more data than daily manual checks ever could, he indicates.

According to Lapham, the hospital is considering installing Ekahau's battery-operated location beacons, which transmit an infrared signal encoded with a unique ID number, and attaching Ekahau T301B tags to certain assets. The tag's built-in IR sensor would capture that IR transmission, then transmit the unique ID number of that location beacon, along with its own unique ID number, to the back-end system. The system could then determine the tag's whereabouts, based on the location beacon's ID number. This function enables the system to better pinpoint a tag's location in areas where RFID transmissions might leak from one room to another, or where even greater location granularity is required, such as items that might be difficult to locate without knowing exactly where in a room they are.

Lapham believes the deployment of asset and temperature tags has made the hospital more efficient. "We are still working on the actual quantifiable measurements when it comes to the efficiencies gained," he notes. The system, he says, has reduced the amount of time workers spent manually monitoring temperatures. For asset tracking, Lapham says, the biomedical and equipment supply departments are noticing a reduction in the hours spent by employees searching for items, as well as faster turnaround times for equipment as it is used, cleaned and reused.

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