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Emergency Medical Services Providers Try New Equipment-Managing RFID Solution

The system, offered by a nationwide equipment servicer, will enable ambulance crews to verify that the correct equipment is loaded into their vehicles, and to view an alert if anything is being left behind in the field.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 04, 2012Equipment Management Service and Repair (EMSAR), a company that services and repairs health-care and medical-services equipment for clients nationwide, is providing an RFID-based solution developed by Silent Partner Technologies (SPT) for its clients to track its assets' locations. The solution—for which EMSAR is the exclusive reseller, and which is expected to be made available next month—is focused on solving several problems. It helps an emergency medical service (EMS) provider's staff to quickly locate items requiring maintenance or inspection, and also helps crews, such as ambulance drivers or other emergency responders, to ensure that they do not leave their often-expensive equipment behind when going out on a call.

The RFID Asset Management system includes 433 MHz, 915 MHz or 2.4 GHz active RFID tags mounted on equipment, as well as RFID readers installed within emergency vehicles, and computers running software that tracks read data, both remotely and in the cab of the vehicle itself. The tags and readers are supplied by a variety of vendors, depending on a customer's particular needs.

SPT's Ted Kostis
EMSAR, located in Wilmington, Ohio, was founded 15 years ago to service medical capital equipment, such as stretchers and other patient-lifting equipment and beds for the health-care and EMS markets. The firm is among the largest such service companies in the United States.

SPT has been developing RFID-based solutions for approximately a decade, initially for the purpose of tracking assets for the U.S. military, and later also for monitoring EMS assets, including those of the Lake County Fire Rescue service.

EMSAR saw value in this solution to help its own employees when they reported to their clients' sites to provide equipment service. At hospitals or EMS centers, although software typically tracked equipment's maintenance and inspection history, finding assets due for service was an arduous task. EMSAR's employees have often had to walk around hospitals from floor to floor, searching for items such as specific hospital beds, says Maxwell Petersen, EMSAR's business development director. "In a hospital, there could be 400 beds that are moving from room to room," he states. "We needed a platform to know where equipment was."

In the emergency services sector, tracking equipment is even more complicated than it is at hospitals or other fixed locations, because the items travel in ambulances and other rescue vehicles, and are often unloaded in the field and then reloaded by employees. "They have what amounts to a mobile intensive care unit in their truck," Petersen explains. In this case, the concern was not just saving time by tracking the locations of equipment so that those items could be serviced—it was also a matter of ensuring that the assets did not become lost altogether. Staff members at the scene of an emergency may leave a piece of equipment in the field, and if they realize after leaving that they have done so, their priority is to transport a patient to the hospital, not to go back and retrieve it.

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