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Summa Akron City Hospital Tracks EMS Stretchers, Reduces Wait Times

The Ohio hospital is employing RFID to learn how long it takes for patients arriving at its emergency department to be transferred from stretchers to beds, which has helped it to minimize delays.
By Claire Swedberg

The hospital needed a way to measure the actual amount of time that patients spent waiting for a bed. By using an RFID system, the facility would be able to determine whether long waits were actual or only perceived.

A trial RFID deployment took place in early 2010, consisting of Confidex passive Survivor ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags zip-tied to stretchers, as well as a Barcoding Inc. Weatherproof RFID Interpreter RFID reader mounted near the entrance that had a USB port for downloading the collected read data to a computer, to then be viewed on a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. The reader used for the trial was designed for trade shows, Zalewski says.

A passive UHF tag, encased in a protective plastic covering, is attached to a recessed location on the stretcher to reduce the chance of it being torn off.
The hospital tested the technology for about six months. During that span of time, approximately 65 stretchers from 19 municipal agencies were tagged. The read rate, for ingoing as well as outgoing stretchers, was about 76 percent, which was a lower percentage than the facility would have liked. Another problem that arose was the loss of tags—they were often knocked loose as the stretchers were moved into and out of vehicles and into the field to transport patients.

Following the trial's completion, the hospital continued collecting data from the RFID reader, and it has since increased coverage to about 100 stretchers from 30 municipalities or companies. A hospital worker attached a tag to each stretcher, and that tag's unique ID number was linked, on an Excel spreadsheet, to data regarding that stretcher's owner.

When its bed capacity increased in 2012 from 45 beds to 75, the hospital was able to use the RFID data to confirm that wait times were on the decline. The medical center's goal is to transfer 90 percent of emergency patients from stretchers to beds in 15 minutes or less, and 100 percent in 30 minutes or less.

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