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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

Mackenzie Health is also testing an asset-management component of the smart beds, stretchers and lifts. A CenTrak battery-powered tag (similar to the staff badge) is attached to each bed, thereby enabling the hospital to identify a particular bed's location based on the room's IR beacon ID number received by the tag. For more granular data about the locations of beds or employees, more beacons are installed to create zones, such as around the hand-hygiene station or next to each of several beds within a room.

In the event of an emergency, staff members can press the button built into their badges to signal that they need help. The software identifies the location and identity of the individual in distress and forwards alerts to the appropriate workers' BlackBerry devices.

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.
"Hand hygiene has been one of the biggest improvements," Gladman reports. Since the hospital first deployed the technology, it has achieved a 30 percent increase in hand-hygiene compliance. In addition, Tam says, the smart-bed functionality reduces the incidence of falls, since employees can instantly see when a patient is trying to get out of bed without assistance.

Tam says the Innovation Unit will continue to use the system deployed for phase one, and Mackenzie Health will deliberate how to go about implementing the technology in other areas of the Richmond Hill facility, as well as in a new hospital set to begin construction in 2016. Phase two will study how the data can best be interpreted and shared with the appropriate hospital personnel. In this phase, the Innovation Unit will utilize software from ThoughtWire to use location data culled from the RTLS software and BlackBerry mobile devices to build advanced workflow automation. The health-care organization hopes to refine its use of the data to identify which individuals should receive alerts, and when.

With the RTLS solution and ThoughtWire's Ambient software platform in place, the system will be able to determine, for instance, which staff members are in the vicinity of a patient who places an emergency call from a bedside calling device. The system can thus issue alerts only to those individuals.

"We are currently exploring options for phase three and a phase four," Tam says, though such plans have not yet been finalized.

In the future, Hill-Rom plans to offer an RFID-based system to automatically track which bed a particular patient is in. The solution may include a passive RFID wristband on each patient, and an RFID reader mounted on that person's bed. In that way, users will no longer need to input data regarding which patient is in which bed. According to Lawrence, the frequency of passive RFID tag to be used has not yet been decided. The company is currently testing different options to ensure 100 percent read rates. About one year from now, Hill-Rom hopes to have the platform fully developed and commercially available.

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