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Children's of Alabama Expands RTLS Deployment for Asset Tracking

Having deployed Versus' RTLS at its Benjamin Russell Hospital, Children's of Alabama is installing it within its older building, and plans to use it to manage nurse emergency calls and monitor hand hygiene.
By Claire Swedberg
The hospital uses the TMS software to help its biomedical staff determine which items require servicing. The Versus RTLS solution is now integrated with that system, so that when workers review which items require maintenance, they can also be directed to the number of the room in which each asset is located.

Children's of Alabama is attaching Versus VER-1832 tags to its assets, each containing a battery, an RFID transponder and an infrared beacon. Each tag is typically installed so that it has a clear line of sight with infrared (IR) receivers mounted on walls throughout the hospital. The tag transmits IR and RF signals, each encoded with the tag's unique ID number, at regular intervals. The hospital has installed a total of 200 VER-4452 RFID readers and 1,100 VER-4432 IR receivers. When an IR receiver captures the ID of a tag within its vicinity, it forwards that information to the Versus Advantages Asset Tracking software, which links data related to that tag—such as the specific asset to which it is attached—to the location data, based on the specific IR sensor involved. The tag's RF transmission is also received by RFID readers, which, in turn, send the transmission data to the back-end server.

Jason Head, Children's of Alabama's biomedical engineering supervisor, and Jack Storey, the hospital's chief information officer.

The IR sensor data can pinpoint the tag's location to within a particular room, while the RFID sensors can enable the software to determine an item's location to within about 60 feet. In that way, the hospital explains, the RFID technology acts as a redundancy system, and can read a tag even if something is blocking the tag's IR transmission, thereby rendering the IR portion of the system temporarily inoperable. In the event that a tag's IR transmission is obstructed, the software calculates location based on the 60-foot radius of the RFID read, as well as the last time that an IR receiver picked up its signal.

Since being taken live at the time of Benjamin Russell Hospital's opening, the system has made the biomedical maintenance of assets much more efficient, Head reports. The department uses tablet computers to view the locations of all equipment required for maintenance on a particular day. The transportation department also utilizes tablet computers upon receiving a request for a wheelchair, bed or stretcher. The transportation employee can then use the tablet to view the requested asset's location in the Versus software, and direct a staff member to retrieve that item, thereby saving time that would otherwise have been spent walking the halls searching for it.

Eventually, Children's of Alabama plans to employ the Versus RTLS solution to track when nurses respond to emergency calls or visit patients. The hospital uses Ascom's Telligence nurse-call system to alert nurses when they are needed by a patient in a specific location. Once the hospital begins utilizing the Versus system with the Telligence platform, nurses would wear a Versus IR-RFID badge that would beacon as its wearer moved around the facility. When a nurse enters within range of the IR sensor installed at the room of the specific patient who issued the call, the software would know that someone had responded to the call and could store that data, in addition to stopping the alert messaging to the nursing staff. In the future, that technology could also be used to create a record of how often and for how long patients received visits from personnel—data which could then be presented to patients' loved ones if so requested.

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