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RTLS to Increase Patient Visibility Within Tallahassee Memorial's Surgical Suite

The Florida hospital is expanding its existing AeroScout Wi-Fi-based RFID system to track patients entering and leaving its ORs, and to display data about each patient's status on a reader board.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 30, 2012More than five years after installing a real-time location system (RTLS) to track assets, as well as temperatures, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) will begin piloting the technology next month to track patients moving through the facility's operating rooms, thereby automating the process of updating each patient's status on reader boards posted for employees and patients' loved ones. By leveraging its existing Wi-Fi based RTLS from AeroScout, the hospital hopes to gain automated information regarding patients' movements into the pre-operation area, the ORs and the recovery area. That data could then be displayed on TMH's existing reader boards, which would automatically update the location of every patient wearing an RTLS badge.

Since it began using RTLS technology in late 2006, the hospital reports that it has reduced its annual equipment replacement and rental costs by $85,000, while also reducing the amount of labor hours spent by nurses and the biomedical staff searching for missing assets, or checking the temperatures of cooling or warming devices throughout the facility (see Increasing Efficiencies by Using RFID to Track Assets). The original RTLS was provided by PanGo Networks, but the hospital replaced that system it 2009 with a solution consisting of AeroScout's tags and MobileView software, residing on the hospital's back-end system, at the same time that it upgraded its Wi-Fi infrastructure.

Jay Adams, TMH's IT enterprise architect
TMH is an 800,000-square-foot acute health-care facility containing 770 beds and employing a staff of 3,500. The PanGo solution was installed to track the locations of such high-value mobile assets as infusion pumps, wheelchairs and beds, thereby reducing the amount of time workers spent looking for those items, as well as ensuring that equipment did not end up missing, or require replacement in the event that it could not be located.

In 2006, the hospital had just deployed 225 Cisco Wi-Fi access points, which failed to provide sufficient coverage to pinpoint the Wi-Fi RFID tags' locations, says Jay Adams, TMH's IT enterprise architect. With the RTLS solution in place, he says, the hospital was able to identify an object 's location only to a specific wing, which did not provide enough granularity. Moreover, TMH wanted to install exciters at doorways to identify when an item left the premises, and to then issue alerts to employees indicating what was leaving, and through which door. At the time, however, PanGo's future seemed uncertain (the company was later acquired by InnerWireless, which has since discontinued its RTLS solution).

So in 2009, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare adopted the AeroScout system, which includes T2 and T2u tags for tracking assets, T5 tags with temperature and humidity sensors for monitoring temperatures in coolers and warmers, and T3 badges for people tracking. The hospital had recently added Cisco access points, of which it now has about 700 deployed. TMH also installed AeroScout EX4100 exciters at doors, in order to prompt a transmission from any tag within read range, thus indicating the tag had entered the area defined by a particular exciter. With this upgrade to the Cisco system, as well as the transition to AeroScout tags and software, the facility can now ensure location data to within 15 feet—and with the exciters, it can identify when an item is leaving a particular area, and send a page to the appropriate staff members. The system is also used to monitor temperatures, by employing the temperature sensors built into AeroScout tags installed in refrigerators and warmers. If a temperature exceeds a specific threshold, a page is continually sent to employees until the problem is addressed and a worker inputs the corrective action into the MobileView system.

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