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Palmetto Health Extends RTLS to New Facility

The South Carolina health-care provider now uses a centralized Ekahau Wi-Fi-based solution to track the locations of assets at four of its hospitals.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 27, 2014

Palmetto Health, located in Columbia, S.C., has expanded a real-time location system (RTLS) that employs its existing Wi-Fi network to track medical equipment and ensure that nothing leaves an authorized area or ends up missing. The deployment consists of Ekahau Inc.'s Vision RTLS software and Wi-Fi-based RFID tags attached to 4,000 assets at four locations. While the hospital first installed the RTLS technology within one building six years ago, it has gradually increased its use of the tags to identify the locations of assets at three other buildings as well. The latest expansion took place at Palmetto's newest hospital, Baptist Parkridge, which opened in Columbia in March of this year.

The largest nonprofit health-care provider in the Columbia area, Palmetto Health operates six South Carolina hospitals with a combined total of 1,138 beds and 8,400 employees. When Palmetto first began looking into RTLS solutions, it aimed to initially install a solution at a single facility, with an eye toward deploying a full organization-wide system (to replace its legacy Wi-Fi networks) that could monitor items at most of its facilities.

Mark Norris, Ekahau's president and CEO
At all of its hospitals, Palmetto Health's primary challenge was to prevent the loss of biomedical equipment, such as infusion pumps. Although the health-care provider sought a centralized system that would monitor tags within multiple buildings, it was also in the process of transitioning from its legacy Wi-Fi networks to a controller-based Cisco wireless local area network (WLAN). Therefore, the RTLS technology was installed at one building, which continued to use the legacy system until the centralized Cisco-based solution was up and running.

In 2008, Palmetto Health—which declined to comment for this story—deployed the Ekahau Vision RTLS solution at its Palmetto Health Richland facility, located at 5 Richland Medical Park Drive, according to Mark Norris, Ekahau's president and CEO. The system employs three types of Ekahau battery-powered RFID tags: the T201, T301a and A4 models. All three tags can be attached to medical devices that the hospital wishes to track, and all feature call buttons enabling personnel to issue alerts. The Vision software, residing on the hospital's back-end server, includes a map of the hospital's floors and rooms, on which an icon represents each item that workers have searched for, based on transmission data. Each tag transmits a 2.4 GHz signal encoded with its ID number to the Wi-Fi nodes at preset intervals, and the software can pinpoint a particular tag's location within 10 to 12 feet, depending on the Wi-Fi nodes' deployment density.

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