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Sao Paulo Cancer Hospital Uses RFID to Respond to Heart Attacks

The technology gets messages to staff members closest to the site of a cardiac incident, and stores data about their responses to help management figure out ways to improve procedures.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 27, 2011The Instituto do Cancer do Estado de São Paulo (ICESP)—a 28-story cancer clinic said to be the largest public cancer-treatment center in Latin America—is employing a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) to facilitate the way in which its staff responds when a patient goes into cardiac arrest. The solution, provided by RFsense and installed by Synergy Tecnologia, includes Ekahau's tags and positioning-engine software known as the Ekahau RTLS Controller (ERC), as well as RFsense's SIGAME software, custom-built for this application to link location data with ICESP's existing voice-over-IP (VoIP) PBX system.

The RTLS not only alerts responders in the event of a cardiac arrest, but also tracks response times, thereby providing the clinic with information that it can utilize to improve its response processes. Ekahau's ERC tracks the location of Wi-Fi-based RFID badges worn by staff members, including those in the room of a patient suffering a heart attack, while the SIGAME software receives that data and integrates it with the VoIP PBX system.

The ICESP facility is newly constructed, and the RTLS went live as the hospital began receiving patients in the summer of 2010. The clinic—which cares for those suffering from cancer, as well as others who, in some cases, are at risk for cardiac arrest—includes more than 500 beds located throughout its 28 floors. There are two levels of cardiac arrest: code blue, requiring a response in three minutes or less, and code yellow, with a maximum acceptable response time of five minutes. Rapid responses can be a challenging task when employees must negotiate a facility with more than 12 elevators and 28 floors the length of a city block.

The hospital sought a solution that could make use of the Wi-Fi nodes already installed throughout the facility, and provide two functions: getting messages to qualified workers closest to the site of a cardiac incident, and storing information about responses in order to help management analyze areas of improvement to the system. "One option was to install emergency call buttons in each room," says Mauricio Strasburg, Synergy's president, "but that would require wiring, and the hospital would not know where the personnel were located."

An Ekahau T301BD badge tag is carried by staff members, who, upon reporting to work, first sign in at a PC connected to the hospital's back-end software, with a wired connection to a battery charger on which the badges are stored, each in a slot equipped with an LED light. As an employee types in his or her name, ICESP's software instructs that individual to select the badge with a blinking light, located on its specific charger slot. The system then links the individual with the ID number of that badge.

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