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The Lahey Clinic's RFID Remedy

A top Boston-area hospital has learned that RFID can cure problems associated with tracking and maintaining high-value mobile medical equipment.
By Mark Roberti
Back in 2000, Bortone began searching for a better system for tracking assets. Eventually, he turned to GE Healthcare, a division of General Electric that handles the facility's clinical engineering needs—including the maintenance of medical equipment—on an outsourced basis. GE Healthcare recommended a novel solution: a radio frequency identification tracking system.

Few people had heard of RFID at the time, but GE Healthcare was working with a company called PinPoint, which had developed a real-time locating system (RTLS) using active (battery-powered) RFID tags. GE Healthcare and PinPoint installed interrogators (readers) in a portion of the facility, tagging more than 500 mobile assets and providing software to allow the clinic to track the location of those assets in real time.

Interrogator antennas from WhereNet were installed at key points in hallways, near elevator banks and in utility rooms so the system could better track the assets' locations.

After using the tracking system for several years, Lahey signed a contract in February to use a new version of GE Healthcare's IntelliMotion RTLS across its entire facility. It also began using the technology in a sister facility in Peabody, Mass., because its equipment sometimes ended up in ambulances transferring patients between the two sites. GE began work on the project in March and expects to complete the deployment by June or July.

"With GE Healthcare, we are rolling out full coverage in our two main facilities," says Bortone. "That's where we feel we will see the true benefits, because we will be able to track equipment leaving our facility and pick it up when it arrives at the Peabody location."

The upgraded asset-tracking system will be linked to GE Healthcare's AssetPlus maintenance software, so the Lahey Clinic will also get alerts when assets are due for regular cleaning or maintenance. Bortone believes the new system will allow nurses to spend more time with patients and less time looking for equipment. Additionally, Lahey will reduce the cost of purchasing unneeded equipment.

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