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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 RFID solution tracks those transfers in this way: An EMS or ambulance crew brings a patient into the ED on a stretcher with an RFID tag attached to it. The reader captures the ID number of the stretcher as it passes by, linking that ID with a timestamp to indicate when the stretcher arrived. Once the patient is transferred to a bed, the empty stretcher is wheeled back out through the same doorway, past the reader once more. Hospital management can later view the two timestamps for the single ID number on the Excel spreadsheet, and determine the wait time based on that information.

The hospital recently changed its hardware to an Impinj reader and standard UHF RFID tags. The tags, encased in a plastic covering to protect them from any hard knocks, are attached to a recessed location on the stretcher so that they are less likely to become torn off.

An RFID reader records each stretcher's arrival and departure (the reader's antenna is shown in the lower left corner of this photo).
With the new reader and tags, and the new tag locations, the system is now capturing most tags as they pass through the hospital doorway in both directions. This year, the system was used to determine how much wait times were increased with the rising volume of patients around flu season, as well as at what times of day and on which days the longest waits occurred.

The greatest benefit of the system is gaining knowledge of actual transfer times, Zalewski says. The hospital can report these times to the EMS companies, he explains, which can then confirm that the hospital is "actively taking steps to address wait times."

Although the hospital's staff is only viewing the spreadsheet data after each day is over, Zalewski says his goal is to see the information displayed on a dashboard so that the rates of stretcher movements through the department could be viewed in real time. However, he says, that expansion to the RFID system awaits funding.

Thus far the deployment has been comparatively inexpensive: $7.50 per tag, totaling $750 for 100 tags. The reader cost less than $3,000.

Jon Zalewski described the deployment on Apr. 17 at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held last week in San Diego, Calif.

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