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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

The company is hardware-agnostic, Salem reports. "We do not intend to be a hardware vendor," he says. "We do intend to achieve a commodity-style offering of location-based services. If that means a specific piece of hardware is not present to support our goal, we will check if it's within our ability to [temporarily] produce ourselves."

Nesa Solutions is a joint venture of two companies: Nesa Agencies, of Miami, Fla., and SMART-Solutions of the Netherlands. Salem, who came from Nesa Agencies, and Helmer van der Veer, who came from SMART-Solutions and is now Nesa Solutions' VP, board member and CPO, combined their knowledge to create a joint venture in 2014. Their goal was to develop a solution employing multiple technologies to help manage data regarding a hospital's workflow.

An electronic questionnaire, the hospital says, is easier to complete since it displays questions, instructions and alerts specific to the room or area currently being inspected.
Salem says he and van der Veer were striving to develop a health-care automation solution that could cover everything from asset tracking to patient care management, based on the movements of tagged patients and personnel. Existing systems have a siloed (single solution) approach, he says, while RTLS technology for tracking everything and everybody within a facility was too costly. "The cost of RTLS is very expensive," Salem states, "and you don't need it for everything." According to Nesa Solutions, the price of its BLE-based real-time location system is less than that of some other RTLS solutions on the market, but the company provides other technologies that cost even less for applications in which RTLS data is unnecessary.

"By combining different technologies and applying them in a smart manner, no single technology is leading," Salem says. "That principle frees the way of thinking for effective alternatives. Hence, if NFC can give the same or similar outcome at 99 percent less cost then active RFID, then we use NFC."

Instead, van der Veer reports, the startup designed a system that would use a variety of technologies, and a single software platform to manage the collected data. "We are keeping it as simple and cost-effective as possible," he says.

Jose Perdomo, MCHF's chief compliance officer
Nicklaus Children's Hospital has been utilizing the INSIGHT system since Nesa Solutions' solution was launched in 2014, using NFC technology as well as beacons and locators from Quuppa. Nesa Solutions' long-term plan is to provide a full workflow-management system that offers intelligence based on the location and linking of assets, staff member and patients. Initially, the hospital has focused on two functions: EOC surveys and crash cart management.

For the EOC surveys, hospital personnel walk through each room, inspecting its safety and cleanliness and completing a questionnaire regarding what they observe. The surveys are carried out to meet internal and external regulatory and compliance requirements. Currently, about a hundred rooms are monitored in this manner. Before the hospital began using the INSIGHT solution, this was typically accomplished manually on paper, and thus could be a time-consuming, multistep process.

With the INSIGHT system, workers fill out questionnaires presented on their NFC-enabled smartphones or tablets. An electronic version is easier to complete, the company reports, since it displays questions, instructions and alerts specific to the room or area being inspected at any given time. Installed within each room is an NFC tag selected and provided by Nesa Solutions, with a unique ID number linked to the room's ID in the INSIGHT software. An employee taps a tablet or smartphone next to the tag, causing the device's INSIGHT app to access the questionnaire for that particular room. The individual then walks through the room and follows the listed tasks, such as checking to see whether the hand sanitizer is full and whether the proper medications or manuals are onsite. That data is automatically uploaded to the server, and the INSIGHT software forwards any problems, such as missing items, to the appropriate party.

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