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Trident Health System Boosts Patient Throughput, Asset Utilization

An RFID-based solution from GE Healthcare and RF Code give the South Carolina hospital network a tool for locating equipment and identifying the availability of beds.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 21, 2010South Carolina hospital network Trident Heath System, a member of HCA Healthcare, is using real-time location system (RTLS) software provided by GE Healthcare and RFID hardware from RF Code to track assets in two of its three Charleston-area facilities and manage beds in all three of its facilities. The recent bed-management system is intended to increase throughput of patients and prevent delays created by a lack of information about bed availability. In the meantime, each nurse is saving, on average, 15 minutes per shift that was previously spent looking for equipment.

Trident Healthcare consists of three facilities: Summerville Medical Center with 94 beds, Trident Medical Center with 296 beds, and Moncks Corner Medical Center, an outpatient diagnostic center with a 24-hour emergency room. The three facilities manage a combined total of 94,000 visits annually, according to Sherry Washington, RN, director of support services and patient flow, Trident Health Systems who described the RTLS project during a presentation at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2010 conference, held last week in Orlando, Fla.

Sherry Washington
Initially, in 2007, the hospital began looking for a system to track its equipment, which was often hard to find and sometimes underutilized simply because it was hard to locate. "Our goal was to have clean, available equipment," says Washington. The hospital's focus was learning to understand the problem and then create an accurate solution that would be scalable and flexible. It found that the equipment was at a 40 percent utilization rate overall, with what nurses perceived as IV pump availability at 36 percent, and nurses were spending about 21 minutes per shift looking for needed equipment. The hospital also hoped to reduce the lease and rental fees of replacement equipment, as well as the cost of replacing lost items.

In 2008 Trident installed GE's AgileTrac Asset Manager Internet-based software system as well as RFID readers and tags and infrared emitters from RF Code, and began tagging 3,000 pieces of equipment including telemetry boxes, IV pumps, wheelchairs and patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) pumps. The company installed RFID readers throughout the two buildings and placed an IR emitter on the ceiling at the center of each room. Each RF Code RFID tags has a built-in IR sensor that receives an emitter's IR signal and then transmits a 433 MHz signal encoded with its own unique ID number along with that of the IR emitter. The readers receive the tag's 433 MHz signal and then forwards the tag data via a cabled connection to the AgileTrac software residing on Trident Health System's back-end server. AgileTrac identifies the location of the tag based on the IR emitter ID and presents the tag's location on a display of the hospital.

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