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RTLS Stops the Leak of Air Mattress Inventory at Hospital

Kaiser Permanente's Zion Medical Center is tracking the movements of its high-value reusable mattresses to ensure that none end up inadvertently in the trash compactor.
By Claire Swedberg

In both versions, the Awarepoint software interprets a tag's location and makes that location-based data available to hospital personnel. This next-generation technology, as well as the previous version in use at Zion, Lee says, "aims to support asset management and temperature monitoring, as well as a broad range of mobility-focused use cases around workflow, wayfinding, workflow improvement, patient engagement and caregiver enablement."

If a tagged mat passed an Awarepoint sensor installed in the trash compactor area, Awarepoint software issued an alert to authorized parties that included Odom and Rick Astone, a Kaiser ergonomic specialist for workplace safety. It soon became clear that mats were being placed in the trash at a fairly high rate. The hospital then traced back the mats' movements prior to their journey to the compactor, and determined that staff members who stripped patient beds were inadvertently throwing the mats away.

Andrea Odom, a Kaiser senior financial analyst
"Once we'd identified the problem," Astone says, "we could then focus on re-educating." As a result, the hospital set up a system by which all transfer mats, whether disposable or reusable, are put in a dedicated bin and are later sorted. Now, he reports, the mats no longer go missing.

The technology posed a few problems when it was first used for this purpose, Astone says. For instance, the tags could not be directly applied to any part of the mattress in which a patient might come in contact, since they could cause injuries. Therefore, the hospital attached the tags to the flap covering the air nozzle. However, workers were then using the tag, attached to that flap, as a handle when moving the mat with a patient on it, and the tags thus sometimes ended up being torn off. Kaiser approached the mat manufacturer and asked that the mats be made with a larger flap that would include grommets to which the tag could be attached.

Like other objects containing metal, the tags cannot be taken into MRI machines, so Awarepoint programmed the software to issue an alert to management in the event that a tagged mat was in the MRI area, potentially entering the machine itself. The hospital uses disposable mats for the MRI-destined patients.

With the system, Astone says, the hospital intends to track such information as how often the mats are used, and thereby confirm that employees are complying with rules regarding the use of those mats to transport patients from one bed to another. The solution will also help the facility identify when a mat is not being used and, therefore, should be moved to a location where it will be utilized for often. For instance, Astone notes, if a department were to hoard a HoverMatt mattress to ensure that one would be available when needed, the technology would identify that action, and management could then provide the department with a disposable mat, for instance, so that the reusable version could be more regularly used for patients.

The technology also helps the hospital to automatically identify when mats are brought to the cleaning facility several blocks away, and when they return. When removing the mats from the medical center, couriers log into the Awarepoint system and indicate the mats' departure so that alerts will not be sent.

The hospital is now considering affixing Awarepoint RTLS tags to wheelchairs and lifting equipment, such as slings that are attached to cranes.

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