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Sharp Chula Vista Uses RTLS to Locate Patients, Manage Beds

The San Diego hospital is using the technology to help employees find patients in real time, as well as alert housekeeping when a patient has been discharged, signaling that a bed is ready for cleaning.
By Claire Swedberg

Staff members can use this information when they need to locate a particular patient. For example, if a physician discovers that a patient is not in his assigned room when she arrives to provide treatment, she can use the software to ascertain where that patient went. That information can also be shared with a visitor or family member.

In the past, if a patient required closer monitoring due to being at risk if he wandered, a staff member might have been assigned to stay with him at all times. But with the RTLS in place, this is not always necessary since the system makes it possible to locate an individual easily.

TeleTracking's John Cutshall
When a patient is discharged, a staff member cuts off the tag and places it in a box containing a built-in beacon. The tag's and beacon's ID numbers are then forwarded to the TeleTracking software to indicate that the patient linked to that specific wristband has checked out, and that her room is, therefore, available for cleaning. The TeleTracking software automatically alerts the housekeeping staff via pager that the room is ready to be cleaned, as well as the kinds of patient treatment that were provided there—which could affect the types of cleaning tools required (such as a patient in isolation for a communicable disease).

Hanley says Sharp HealthCare intends to expand the solution to all of its facilities, based on the system's success at the Chula Vista location. The results of the patient-tracking RTLS are still being evaluated, White adds, including how much it reduces the down time of patient beds that are awaiting cleaning. The technology not only prompts housekeeping to clean the room faster, it provides information that the hospital can use to learn what sorts of situations are likely to result in bed turnover delays after a patient is discharged, as well as how those delays can be reduced. The hospital's focus, White adds, is not just on filling beds as soon as they become available, but also on emptying those beds by ensuring that patients who are ready to go home are quickly processed and released.

In addition, White says, the data enables more modifications based on daily reports. "Things are a lot more transparent," she states, and hospital management can thus track how quickly beds are turned over, along with where problems might lie.

Once the new patient tower opens at Sharp Chula Vista, it, too, will use the patient- and asset-tracking RTLS.

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