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Washington State Clinic Doubles Visits With RTLS

The Canyon Park medical facility boosts patient satisfaction and reduces wait times via a Versus real-time location system that tracks patients, employees and assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 27, 2012Two years after installing a real-time location system (RTLS) to track patient flow, as well as staff members and some assets, Pacific Medical Centers' Canyon Park Clinic, located in Bothell, Wash., has doubled its number of patient visits each month—from 3,000 to 6,000—and achieved an average patient visit time of approximately 46 minutes. In fact, says Brett Daniel, Pacific Medical Centers' chief of primary care, the biggest problem now may be that the waiting room is too large for the very few people occupying it.

The RTLS solution, provided by Versus Technology, has reportedly enabled the clinic to reduce average wait times, and to improve patients' satisfaction by ensuring that they spend less idle time alone, and more time meeting with caregivers.. When Pacific Medical Centers was planning the Canyon Park Clinic, its goal was to create a facility that would serve as a model for its next generation of clinics, by creating greater efficiency in regard to patient treatment. The hospital wanted the new clinic to employ technology that could reduce the amount of time staff members might otherwise waste searching for patients, fellow workers and equipment. Pacific Medical operates 10 clinics, all within the state of Washington, and it has determined that a primary-care visit to one of its clinics averages about 70 minutes, though 46 minutes is considered best-practice. More than half of this time consists of waiting for an examining room, a medical assistant (MA) or a physician.

When Virginia Mason Medical Center opened a new facility in Kirkland, in spring 2009, it installed Versus' RTLS solution (see At Virginia Mason Clinic, RFID Eliminates the Need to Wait). Pacific Medical visited Virginia Mason's clinic to view the Versus system in action before deciding whether or not to deploy it. "We liked the Versus product," Daniel says. "They were willing to work with us on our timeline."

Versus' RTLS solution employs battery-powered badges and asset tags using both RFID and infrared technologies. Every three seconds, the tag simultaneously transmits a 433 MHz RF signal, using a proprietary air-interface protocol, and an infrared signal, both encoded with the same unique ID number. The Canyon Park Clinic's 30,000-square-foot facility has 35 standard examination rooms, four enlarged specialty exam rooms, procedure rooms, and areas for testing and infusions. The system was designed so that individuals and assets could be located within any of those areas, explains Tom Ott, Versus' national sales director. To accomplish that goal, he says, Versus installed 139 IR sensors (to receive the tags' IR signals) throughout the facility, at least one in each room, thereby enabling the system to pinpoint a particular badge's location within a room, or within a few feet (in the event that multiple IR sensors are used in the same room); for example, an IR sensor is deployed at each of five infusion chairs. Versus also installed RFID readers every 100 feet throughout hallways, in order to receive RFID transmissions as a redundancy to the IR system. What's more, the clinic attached Versus IR-RFID tags to approximately 130 pieces of equipment, such as electrocardiography (EKG) machines, pumps, defibrillators and DVD players.

The Versus software utilizes location data to help the clinic's staff identify each room's status (either empty or in use), track caregiver visits, automate the nurse-calling system, track EKG procedures (based on the presence of an EKG machine near a specific patient) and determine which additional tests were run on a patient (based on the specific rooms visited).

Upon arriving at the clinic, a patient checks in at the desk, and a staff member inputs that person's name, reason for visiting, time of appointment and physician's name. The patient is then provided with a Versus IR-RFID badge, the number of which is entered into the Versus software, which links to the facility's Centricity clinic-management system. A desk employee can then view a map of the clinic in the Versus software, and identify which examining rooms are available. The system color-codes each room, based on whether or not it is occupied by a patient.

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