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How Much Would It Cost to Track Patient and Staff Movements Within a Psych Ward?

Posted By RFID Journal, 02.06.2012
Would this type of monitoring be doable in a hospital setting? And how much would tags cost?


Dear Greg,

Tracking patients and workers within a hospital's psychiatric ward is not only doable—it's being done.

Rockhampton Base Hospital, in Queensland, Australia, is leveraging radio frequency identification to improve employees' safety. Nurses stationed in the hospital's mental-health ward are using Protrac iD's Duress Alarm Card, which combines a long-range wireless duress transmitter, a photo ID and proximity access-control technology, combined in a single credit-card-sized device. The duress transmitter features a battery-powered RFID tag operating at 433 MHz. Any nurses in danger or in need of assistance can push a button built into the back of his or her card, thereby causing the transmitter to send a signal to a reader, alerting coworkers that help is required. The nurses receive the cards upon signing in at the beginning of a shift, and the tags' unique ID numbers are correlated in a database with each person's name and photograph. To learn more, see RFID Fills Security Gap at Psychiatric Ward.

Researchers at Finland's Tampere University of Technology (TUT) have developed a low-latency wireless sensor network that is currently being used to improve the security of personnel within the psychiatric ward at Kainuu Central Hospital, located in the city of Kajaani. The network was designed at the university, and the security application for wireless alarming, requested by the hospital, was implemented with the low-latency network in the spring and summer of 2009. Personnel are utilizing the network with specially designed tags to alert supervisors in the event that they find themselves in a threatening situation in the ward. To learn more, see Psychiatric Ward Uses RFID-based Alarms to Bolster Personnel Security.

Austria's University Hospital, in Innsbruck, has installed two RFID-based alarm systems to monitor workers who might be confronted by aggressive patients. One system is used by emergency-room employees who deal with potentially dangerous situations, such as those involving drunken individuals visiting the hospital for care, while the other is intended for the ward's attendants. Both deployments depend on Wi-Fi-enabled battery-powered RFID tags and real-time location system (RTLS) software. To learn more, see Innsbruck University Hospital Finds Safety Through RFID.

The cost of such a system is difficult to determine, because it would depend on a number of factors that can vary widely from one hospital to another. One factor is the area of coverage involved. If a psychiatric ward is large, with multiple levels or wings, this would require more readers and antennas, and thus would carry a higher cost. Another critical factor is the number of people to be tracked. Obviously, you would need to purchase more tags if you were tracking a greater number of individuals. And there might be other factors as well that could affect your particular deployment.

Tags would cost you about $50 to $75, depending on the sensors required.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor,
RFID Journal

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