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Hospital Using RTLS to Monitor Patients' Conditions

A new system co-developed by AeroScout, Cisco Systems, and Emergin at the University Hospital of Ghent lets nurses use IP phones and the hospital’s WiFi network to receive RTLS location data plus patient blood pressure, electrocardiogram images, and other medical data collected by patient monitoring equipment.
Mar 02, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 2, 2007—Many hospitals use real-time locating system (RTLS) technology to track where patients are, but University Hospital of Ghent (UZ Ghent) in Belgium may be the first to use the technology to track how they are. The hospital is using WiFi RTLS tags integrated with medical monitoring equipment to remotely transmit patient health data and emergency alerts. Nurses carrying wireless voice-over-IP (VoIP) phones can instantly access patient information from the monitoring equipment, including blood pressure, oxygen level, and even electrocardiogram images. In case of emergency, the RTLS tags from AeroScout can automatically issue an alert.

"We are not only reducing patient event response time dramatically, but also extending this to anywhere in the hospital," Bart Sijnave, UZ Ghent's CIO, is quoted in AeroScout's announcement. "In the fast-paced environment of hospital care, delays in response to patient events can sometimes have serious consequences."

In non-emergency situations, the system gives patients the freedom to stroll the campus, which is covered by a wireless LAN. The system was demonstrated last week at the HiMSS exhibition in New Orleans and is currently being deployed at the 1,100-bed hospital, AeroScout's marketing director Josh Slobin told RFID Update.

The integrated system includes the hospital's legacy WiFi wireless network, WiFi-enabled RTLS tags from AeroScout, wireless phones and the 2710 Wireless Location Appliance from Cisco Systems, communication technology from Emergin, and monitoring equipment from a major medical systems manufacturer. The tags are placed on monitoring equipment assigned to cardiology patients, who are then free to take strolls, visit lounges, and move about the facility. The application will provide patient location data in addition to the advanced medical telematics information.

There is a lot of research and development activity underway regarding medical and pharmaceutical applications for RFID, and hospitals are a core market for RTLS asset tracking and personal identification systems, but the UZ Ghent system is unusual in its use of RTLS technology directly related to patient care.

VeriChip manufactures an implantable RFID chip and markets it to healthcare professionals for patient identification, but the product provides identification only, not medical data, and utilizes low-range passive RFID technology. Eastman Kodak recently filed a patent application for an edible RFID tag to monitor medicine ingestion (see Kodak Files Patent for Edible RFID Tag).

AeroScout and Cisco previously collaborated in a demonstration with another Belgian hospital of an RTLS system for disaster victim tracking (see Cisco's announcement). A month ago the companies announced they would jointly market solutions to select industries other than healthcare, including aerospace, automotive, mining, and semiconductor manufacturing (see Cisco, AeroScout Team to Market WiFi RFID).

Hospitals have been early adopters of RTLS and are expected to remain one of the strongest markets for active RFID technology (see IDTechEx Identifies "Booming" Areas for RFID).
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