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Nicklaus Children's Hospital Uses NFC Tags, BLE Beacons to Manage Inspections, Assets

The technology includes NFC RFID tags for facilitating inspections and a beacon-based RTLS solution for identifying the locations of assets, personnel and patients.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 26, 2016

Nicklaus Children's Hospital (formerly known as Miami Children's Hospital) has deployed Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to track assets and some personnel within its emergency department, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags (used with Android-based tablets or smartphones) to conduct daily inventory counts to ensure that 34 crash carts are properly loaded. Startup technology company Nesa Solutions developed the hybrid solution, known as INSIGHT Location Intelligence, to provide location-based intelligence to health care or other sectors. The solution includes modules such as crash cart control, environment of care (EOC) surveys (for managing room inspections) and PINPOINT (for pushing notifications to staff members, patients or visitors).

To date, the technology has helped the medical facility to reduce the amount of time its employees spend inspecting crash carts, from several hours to merely a few minutes each day, according to Edward Martinez, the senior VP and CIO of Miami Children's Health System (MCHF), the hospital's parent organization. It also enables the locating of wheelchairs, pumps and other equipment throughout the emergency department, when such items are needed for patient care, based on BLE transmissions. In the long term, though, the hospital aims to know where individuals and items are located, he says, and to use intelligence based on that location data to boost the efficiency and safety of its patient care.

To document a crash cart's inspection, a Nicklaus Children's Hospital employee taps a smartphone against the cart's passive NFC RFID tag.
INSIGHT, according to Neil Salem, Nesa Solutions' CEO and chairman, is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution that he refers to as location-based services, which is used to link physical entities to digital processing. "Technology-wise," he explains, "it can range from bar code to NFC, BLE, RFID and Wi-Fi—anything that will allow unambiguous physical entity identification."

Nicklaus Children's Hospital is South Florida's only licensed specialty hospital exclusively for children. A busy facility, it receives 150,000 emergency room visits annually and is in the process of growing—the hospital is currently building a new six-story bed tower.

Approximately three years ago, Martinez recalls, the hospital began considering how a real-time location system (RTLS) could help track assets' locations, but from the outset, he says, the hospital's managers wanted to take a holistic approach regarding how the technology would be used. "You can spend a lot of money without any real value other than knowing where things are," he explains. Instead, he says, they wanted to know more, such as whether patients were being seen in a timely fashion, if health-care providers were washing their hands prior to each patient visit as required, and whether patient safety could be better protected—for instance, how baby abductions might be prevented.

Edward Martinez, Miami Children's Health System's CIO
When it comes to crash cart inspections, says Jose Perdomo, MCHF's senior VP of facilities and construction and chief compliance officer, "Every hospital, from a regulatory perspective, has to be ready for emergencies, and you never know when that will happen." It was a daily, time-consuming project, he notes, for hospital personnel to ensure that the oxygen cylinder is loaded, that the equipment is present and that nothing is expired.

Initially, the hospital didn't find the kind of technology solution it sought. "The interesting thing we found is that in health care, there are all these single solutions available," Perdomo recalls. The facility wanted a system that would be more flexible and would not be limited to a single application, such as asset tracking or hand hygiene compliance, or one type of technology. For example, he says, using an RTLS solution with battery-powered tags for every application would be prohibitively expensive.

So in 2014, the hospital began working with Nesa to create a hybrid system that it could pilot and phase in incrementally, with low-cost passive NFC RFID tags for cart inventory and patient room checks, as well as BLE RFID tags for monitoring individuals and equipment. The system consists of Nesa Solutions' software (to manage data, and provide analytics and location-based intelligence), Quuppa BLE beacons and Locators (beacon readers), and Nesa Solutions' own NFC tags and Bluetooth beacons.

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