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Florida Hospital Measures Success of Temperature-Tracking System

The 2,200-bed facility expects to improve patient safety by using AeroScout Wi-Fi-based tags to determine when pharmaceutical refrigerators are left open too long, or are operating improperly.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 24, 2010Florida Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the United States, is employing Wi-Fi RFID tags to wirelessly track the temperatures of refrigeration units in seven campuses from a central server. The installation utilizes temperature probes attached to AeroScout battery-powered 2.45 GHz RFID tags. Florida Hospital also installed some extra Wi-Fi nodes, to provide better network coverage in areas where the pharmaceutical refrigerators are located. The tags transmit the temperatures every five minutes to Cisco Wi-Fi access points, which then forward that temperature data and the tag's ID number to the AeroScout MobileView software residing on the hospital's back-end server. The MobileView application has maps of all seven buildings that can be displayed with icons representing each tagged refrigerator

With AeroScout T2 RFID tags and temperature probes installed at 170 of its 200 pharmaceutical refrigerators to date, in seven separate buildings throughout Orlando, the hospital's IT department is now adjusting the software settings to meet the needs of its staff, thereby allowing different temperature thresholds and alert responses for different cooler units. Putting the technology into place and ensuring that it works is 5 percent of the challenge, says Todd Frantz, the hospital's CTO. The remaining 95 percent, he adds, involves determining how to set the perimeters and what to do with that information. The technology itself works well, he says.


Todd Frantz, Florida Hospital's CTO
Once the hospital receives the data, its options are many. The software can be configured to meet the specific needs of each refrigeration unit, and be adjusted to best differentiate a problem (such as a non-functioning refrigerator) from normal usage, such as a unit with a door that is repeatedly opened and closed.

According to Frantz, the hospital—which has 2,200 beds in its seven buildings—knew it not only needed a system to meet regulatory requirements from groups such as the Joint Commission to track temperatures on a daily basis, it also needed one that could protect its inventory. In one case, a refrigerator containing $40,000 worth of pharmaceutical products was moved to another part of the room, to enable crews to perform renovation work in that area. Although the unit was supposed to be plugged in at its temporary location, as well as when it returned to its original spot, its power supply was cut off during the renovation work, and the inventory stored within was destroyed. A real-time locating system (RTLS) would have been able to detect that problem and issue an alert.

The facility first began by testing the AeroScout system on a refrigerator in the IT lunchroom, with several tags and temperature probes installed in the unit at a time, in order to test the hardware. Once assured that the system was working properly, the staff began placing the tags on some refrigerators in all seven buildings. Frantz says he can now monitor that data from all of those locations using his PC.

But determining what to do with the information has been Frantz's challenge since the tags were installed in the fall of 2009. He has determined, for instance, that the alerts need to be set at a threshold that is not too rigid, but that can still notify the IT team when a problem occurs. For example, he says, nurses would not be responsive to a warning from the IT department that refrigerators have reached 46.3 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, they would respond to an alert indicating a refrigerator has remained above 47 degrees for a specified length of time, indicating someone has left its door open.

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