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Grady Memorial Hospital Puts RFID Technology at Work to 'Find It Now'

The hospital will use CenTrak's RTLS hardware and Intelligent InSites' software to track thousands of mobile assets.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 13, 2014

As part of an enterprise-wide initiative to make it easier to locate medical equipment, particularly within its busy emergency department (ED), Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital has implemented a real-time location system (RTLS) that combines asset- and operations-management software from Intelligent InSites and hybrid infrared (IR) and active RFID technology supplied by CenTrak. Grady's ED will use the solution to track thousands of mobile assets, such as bedside monitors, defibrillators, bladder scanners and wheelchairs, as well as tissue and blood samples stored in refrigeration units.

The implementation is part of the hospital's "Find It Now" initiative, according to Brenda Weyl, the hospital's director of operational excellence. "We are one of the busiest EDs in the nation, and a Level I Trauma Center," she states. "We are always striving to enhance the experience for all of the patients who come to us for care. The time our ED staff spends searching for equipment adversely impacts patient and employee satisfaction, as well as throughput." Clinical personnel can spend as much as 60 to 90 minutes daily trying to locate available mobile equipment, especially in the emergency department. "Being able to quickly locate clean and available equipment will reduce the time our patients have to spend in the ED," she explains, "and provide an overall better experience."

The integrated system consists of Intelligent InSites' operational-intelligence platform and asset-management and temperature-monitoring software, as well as RTLS and sensory hardware provided by CenTrak. CenTrak's battery-operated tags combine the company's Gen2IR infrared technology (to determine a tag's location) with 900 MHz active RFID technology (to communicate the tag's unique ID number and location information to an RFID reader). Each Gen2IR emitter beacons an infrared signal with a unique identifier. The tag receives the emitter's signal and transmits its own ID, as well as that of the emitter, to an RFID reader via a 900 MHz signal. The real-time location data is then processed by Intelligent InSites software, which interprets that tag's location, based on data culled from the reader. The infrared technology does not require line of sight (a tag underneath a blanket, CenTrak claims, can still receive an IR emission), but because infrared signals cannot penetrate walls, the use of IR technology accurately isolates an asset to a particular room.

Grady Memorial has installed all of the hardware necessary to enable the facility-wide reading of the tagged equipment, Weyl says, and has tagged nearly 6,000 mobile assets to date. Intelligent InSites and CenTrak are now testing and certifying the hardware, she adds. During the next three weeks, nearly 2,400 clinical workers will be trained on the system's use, and the hospital expects the system to be fully operational by the end of next month.

Not only will the RTLS help Grady Memorial more effectively and efficiently find assets when they are required, and thereby improve patient care, but Weyl says the system will help the hospital make more informed purchasing decisions about its mobile assets. "To date, we are forced to make capital spending decisions for mobile medical equipment with limited information about how frequently the assets we own are actually used," Weyl says. "The RTLS solution will allow us to track utilization, thereby supporting better spending decisions. It's not so much about reducing inventory requirements, but, instead, about understanding how we use inventory to ensure we always have the right inventory, at the right place and time." The hospital also expects the system to improve its equipment maintenance scheduling, reducing equipment out-of-service time, and helping the facility to more effectively maintain equipment.

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