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Veterans Affairs Implementing RTLS Across Seven Midwest Hospitals

The facilities, located in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, are installing six different types of real-time location systems, as well as passive RFID tags and other auto-ID technologies, with all data managed by Intelligent InSites software on a single platform.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 06, 2012The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is currently in the process of installing a real-time location system (RTLS) at all seven of its hospitals in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. The VA's intention is to improve staff efficiencies, and thereby provide better medical care to veteran patients.

The VA's health-care system is divided geographically into 21 regions, known as Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs), with Indiana, Illinois and Michigan comprising VISN 11. The RTLS solution involving the seven VISN 11 hospitals is being implemented by Hewlett-Packard (HP) Enterprise Services, with a variety of hardware vendors providing real-time location and temperature data. Intelligent InSites' enterprise-wide RTLS software provides a single user interface for the applications, by managing data culled from all of the individual systems.

Intelligent InSites' Marcus Ruark
The installation is being called the largest such RTLS installation to date, the agency reports. Once completed, it will include 25,000 active RTLS tags, 94,000 passive RFID tags, and 2,000 wireless temperature and humidity sensors, and will cover a combined total of approximately 4.5 million square feet. The system also includes bar codes etched on 255,000 surgical instruments, as well as passive RFID tags for the 63,000 cardiac catheterization lab supplies consumed annually by the seven hospitals. Read data regarding all of these items will be transmitted to the Intelligent InSites software residing on VISN 11's network, thereby enabling hospital employees not only to locate items or identify temperature changes in real time, but also to run reports and conduct analyses regarding assets, inventory levels and location details. In addition, the solution automates workflows and alerts based on real-time data. For instance, an alert could be triggered in the event that a temperature rose or dropped out of range, or if a dirty infusion pump was moved into a clean storage closet.

"Our goal is to improve the care we provide to veterans," says Michael McDonald, VISN 11 biomedical engineering point-of-care (POC) chief. In considering RTLS solutions, he adds, "Our driving factor was the frustrations [from staff] in finding the right equipment at the right time."


Mike Maurer 2012-11-05 03:46:30 PM
RTLS Metrics Couple of quick questions related to tracking high value (e.g. larger) medical assets such as infusion pumps: 1) What is the VA requiring with regard to location accuracy utilizing the Wi-Fi Radio Frequency locator technology? 2) What is the average accuracy attained? 3) Why are there no life-safety solutions (e.g. At-Risk Patient and/or Staff Duress)? 4) Are you aware that Pittsburgh VA has an RTLS (non Wi-Fi) System covering over 6 Million Square Feet and using low frequency RF locates tags to within 3-5 meters (life-safety RTLS)? We'd be interested in pushing our life-safety RTLS data to your front-end. Do you have an SDK available?
Mike Maurer 2012-11-27 12:09:47 PM
Technologies for evalution excluded the best from competing I'd like to bring some clarity to the misleading premise that the VA spent 5 years evaluating the 'Proper' technologies: The fact of the matter is that the VA National Committee, at the VA RTLS National Conference, excluded non Wi-Fi technologies from competing. Case in point was the exclusion of Tyco/SecurTRAK (formerly Elpas) RTLS technology which is based upon low frequency 433Mhz for locating tags using RF, IR for sub-bed level tracking, LFRF for portals & floor logic, and ProxHID for HID cards (all on the same infrastructure). More specifically, their RTLS, using SecurTRAK software, has been operating in the VA since 2002 with a reliability of 99.98% up-time, accuracy of 2' using IR, 3-5 meters using RF through walls, millisecond portal control using LFRF (covering 6+ Million SF). To clarify, even though it's accuracy and reliability has been proven "in the VA" for 10+ years, it was excluded from competing because their 'superior' RF locator component does not use Wi-Fi to triangulate(?). Engineering studies the world over have proven beyond the shadow of doubt that lower frequency solutions are much better at triangulating RFID tags through the various materials of construction as found in VA Hospitals and related facilities - and also for tracking outdoors. The main reason provided for limiting the RTLS competing technologies solely to Wi-Fi, "...multiple solutions can be dove-tailed on the same infrastructure..." Tyco's four (4) RTLS technologies has been operating on the same infrastructure since 1996 (as an aside: they also offer Wi-Fi communication capability but advise using hard-wired communications where security is paramount - especially for life-safety). The Wi-Fi triangulation requirement will not provide the accuracy and reliability critical to life-safety solutions (e.g. staff duress, at-risk patient tracking, etc.). Accordingly, life-safety is casually mentioned as a possible 'future' in the National contract and the RTLS Moratorium excludes VA facilities from purchasing RTLS for life-safety. Catch-22: The only future solutions must include Wi-Fi triangulation as a base locator component before 'augmenting' with IR and/or other technologies. What purpose does it serve to limit the RTLS playing field to Wi-Fi when technologies specifically developed for RTLS have existed many years prior? How will the VA reap the benefit of Intelligent Insight's excellent interface if the actual tag locations do not accurately reflect the locations reported by the underlying RTLS? My prior Navy experience connotes: It is far less costly to change the course of a carrier group than to let it collide with an iceberg. As a Veteran owner of a small business that has focused on delivering quality solutions to the government and the VA for 25+ years, it's especially disheartening to have spent much of my life developing the best possible solutions for fellow veterans and then not having the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Hence, 'Proper' in the above context is meaningless.

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