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PAR-Level RTLS Solution Saves Costs at Oregon Hospital

Sacred Heart Medical Center at River Bend is using a real-time location system from Versus Technology to track the PAR levels of assets, enabling the facility to ensure that equipment is always on hand where needed.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 17, 2012When the nursing staff at Sacred Heart Medical Center at River Bend was presented with the hospital's new plans to implement a real-time location system (RTLS) for tracking infusion pumps, the nurses were unenthused. Frustration levels were already high among employees, due to the difficulty of locating pumps and other assets required for use. So when Christian Buchsteiner, the hospital's health-care improvement engineer, met with dozens of nurses to discuss the RTLS project, he was met with skepticism, he says. "I stood in front of 50 nurses," Buchsteiner recalls, "and told them, 'We will be reducing the number of pumps by 30 percent,' and the nurses said, 'Are you crazy?'"

Since the system's two-phase installation, however—in 2010 and 2011—the technology has proven to enable the reduction of pumps to the level Buchsteiner had aimed for (from 923 units down to 700), while also increasing the equipment's availability to nurses when needed. The RTLS data is first used to establish the periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) level—the minimum acceptable number of pumps on-hand—for a particular location. Once the PAR level is determined, the RTLS will monitor the quantity of available pumps, issuing alerts to necessary staff members employed in the distribution and clinical engineering department, to retrieve assets before numbers could dwindle to the point at which nurses would have to begin searching for them.

Sacred Heart Medical Center, owned by PeaceHealth, had already been using an RTLS solution from Versus Technology to track patients through its emergency department, since the hospital opened in 2008 (see New Oregon Hospital Adopts IR-RFID Hybrid System. The facility recently expanded its use of the Versus system—which employs RFID and infrared technologies—to its labor and delivery unit, in order to monitor the locations of staff members and patients, as well as some equipment. This, however, would be the first asset-tracking system in use at the hospital, Buchsteiner notes. Although he says he recognized the value of RTLS technology for tracking assets' locations, he wanted to take the system a step further than simply providing location data. Specifically, he wanted the system to inform the hospital when it needed to replenish its equipment supply at certain central locations at which nurses could quickly access assets.

Sacred Heart Medical Center at River Bend is a Level II trauma center covering an eight-county region. The hospital has hundreds of different types of assets requiring management, Buchsteiner says, but in July 2010, it opted to start (as the first phase of its asset-tracking project) with tracking just one highly coveted type of equipment—infusion pumps, building on the existing Versus RFID/IR infrastructure (the facility added approximately 20 RFID readers and IR sensors to accomplish hospital-wide coverage). First, the staff attached Versus tags to about 700 infusion pumps, and then began tracking their movements. The location data was available to workers in real time, but Buchsteiner notes that labor was still necessary on the part of nurses—first to log into the Versus system to search for a required piece of equipment, and then to walk to that area of the hospital to retrieve it.

Instead, Buchsteiner wanted to take another step (Phase Two), by using the technology to spare nurses from the searching task. Rather than logging into a system to find equipment, an employee would simply go to a unit's central storage area, and the asset sought would be there and available for use.

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