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Genesis Health System Uses RFID to Drill Deeper

AeroScout's Wi-Fi-based technology provides the Iowa hospital with more-detailed reports based on equipment movement and usage, and lets it respond more quickly to natural disasters or other emergencies.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 09, 2009When Genesis Health System, in Davenport, Iowa, took part in a March 2009 disaster drill involving multiple agencies, several hospitals and approximately 50 actors playing the part of victims requiring emergency health care, the hospital was able to put its new active RFID solution to the test. In September 2008, Genesis had begun applying AeroScout tags that transmit to the hospital's existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes at two of its four campuses. Shortly before the disaster drill took place, Genesis had finished tagging most of its infusion pumps, as well as wheelchairs and stretchers.

The drill included a surprise change when the injured were abruptly rerouted from one facility to another, thus requiring a quick change in medical equipment deployment by Genesis. However, says Steve Montgomery, the hospital's supervisor of logistics, by using RFID, Genesis was fully prepared with the proper equipment at the right location, waiting and ready when the "injured" arrived. Drills such as this are scheduled every six months.

Genesis Health System's Steve Montgomery
The hospital installed the AeroScout system to better track assets as they passed through its clinicians' hands, as well as in its sterilization and biomedical departments. Montgomery says he sought a solution that would allow him to locate rented pumps and return them on time, know where the hospital's own pumps are, and recognize when there is a bottleneck that could cause an equipment shortage. Currently, he says, it takes a maximum of two minute's searching via computer, on average, to locate a missing piece of equipment. Prior to using the AeroScout system, it took about 22 minutes to carry out that same task.

The asset tracking and management system includes AeroScout battery-powered T2 2.4 GHz tags, as well as the company's MobileView software to display the location of equipment in real time and enable Montgomery to set up a series of reports to be run daily regarding the flow of assets through the hospital. The two campuses at which the system is currently installed have a combined total of 500 beds. A third campus, with 75 beds, will go online in June 2010, Montgomery says, while a fourth, with 12 beds, still requires that the Wi-Fi infrastructure be installed before it can be included in the system.

At the first two campuses, the system employs the hospital's existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, which was installed for its communications system, while AeroScout added Wi-Fi nodes in places where the network had not previously been required, such as in basements. Exciters are used in areas where Genesis needs to know the exact number of tagged items in a specific location, such as on a shelf. An exciter emits a 125 kHz signal that activates a dormant tag, causing it to transmit its own unique ID number, along with the exciter's ID number, to the Wi-Fi nodes. That information is then sent to the MobileView software. This kind of granularity is provided in the biomedical department and other places where equipment may pile up, says Joel Cook, AeroScout's health-care solutions marketing director.

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