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Mackenzie Health's Innovation Unit Assesses RTLS

The 34-bed unit, created specifically for testing new technologies, has completed a yearlong pilot of hand-hygiene, patient-safety and bed-management applications, and is now exploring how to best use and permanently deploy the technology.
By Claire Swedberg

On the ceiling of each room, a CenTrak infrared beacon transmits a unique ID in such a way that its IR signal fills the room (thereby reducing the likelihood of the module's signal being blocked by a physical obstruction). Infrared is the most appropriate technology, explains Brian Lawrence, Hill-Rom's CTO and senior VP, because it requires a line of sight so that the software knows in which room the individual wearing the badge tag is located.

Each tag contains an IR sensor for receiving a beacon's ID number. The tag transmits the beacon's ID every one and a half seconds, along with its own unique identifier, via a 900 MHz signal to the nearest of the hospital's RFID CenTrak Star access points. The access points then forward that data to the RTLS software via a Wi-Fi connection.

Hill-Rom's Brian Lawrence
When a staff member enters a patient room, the software receives the related location data, including whether that employee dwells in front of the hand sanitizer both before and after visiting the patient's bedside. E-mails are then automatically sent daily to each worker wearing a badge tag, indicating his or her compliance rate.

Hill-Rom's Smart Beds come with built-in sensors to detect such things as whether the side rail is locked in place, the head of the bed has been elevated and the weight on the bed has changed, thereby indicating if a patient has gotten up. The sensor data can then be transmitted back to the software, Lawrence explains, either through a wired or Wi-Fi connection. Mackenzie Health is leveraging the Wi-Fi network to capture that data wherever the bed is located, without requiring a wired connection.

An LED screen acts as a status board that lists each patient according to the bed ID number linked to that individual in the software, as well as the status of certain bed features (green if the head of the bed is down, the side rail is locked and weight is detected on the bed). If a patient raises the bed, for instance, that will trigger an alert and an audible alarm will sound in that person's room, and information will flash red on the Smart Board. Data can also be forwarded to nurses, each of whom carries a BlackBerry device.

If the weight on the bed suddenly decreases, the system could issue an alert indicating a patient is attempting to leave the bed without required assistance.

When a nurse or other health-care worker responds to an emergency, the presence of that individual's CenTrak badge in the same room as the bed where the alert originated prompts the software to turn off the alert. When the staff member then leaves the room, the bed's exit alarm is automatically reactivated. Therefore, if the side rail, for instance, were still down, an alert would sound as soon as the nurse left the room. This function, Lawrence says, spares hospital personnel from the task of remembering to reactivate alerts after responding.

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