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RFID Frees Up Patient Beds

St. Vincent's Hospital deployed a patient-tracking and real-time clinical information system that improved the quality of care, increased revenues and delivered an ROI.
By Jill Gambon
Development work began in January 2004, and a pilot project was launched the following September in the 34-bed cardiac-care unit. The tags were attached to the patients' charts, which accompany them wherever they go in the hospital. The egg-shaped tags are slightly bigger than a key fob used to unlock a car, says John Pantano, vice president of marketing for Radianse. The system operates at 433.9 MHZ and reads the tags every 10 seconds.

The RFID interrogators, wired into the hospital's Ethernet network, send information about the patient's location to an SQL Server database. Any location changes the interrogators detect are written to the database, then displayed in real-time on screens installed throughout the hospital. To protect privacy, no names are displayed on the screens—only room numbers identify the patients.

In addition to the patient-location information, the system integrates clinical data and relevant information, such as notification of lab results, prescription orders and other medical instructions. The system conveys this information on screens through a series of color-coded graphics and icons, allowing nurses to tell at a glance what care a patient requires. Before the system was in place, nurses had to log on to the computer to look up lab results and check physician orders. This resulted in a time lag between when orders were entered into the system and when a nurse logged in and read them.

One of the biggest challenges in developing the system was trying to figure out what information should be displayed on the boards, says Theresa Meadows, director of clinical systems for St. Vincent's. The hospital collects huge amounts of data, but in many cases, that information wasn't readily available to the staff. This meant nurses and administrators couldn't see where problems were occurring and, thus, could not shift resources or move patients to resolve back-ups. Sometimes, it could take three months to mine the data to see why bottlenecks occurred. Now the staff can tell, by looking at the screens, if there is a backlog of patients waiting for X-rays. If another X-ray machine is available somewhere else in the hospital, the staff can redirect the patients to it.

The system has helped free up beds for new patients. It used to take six hours, on average, to log discharged patients out of the hospital's computer system. That meant nurses, bed controllers or other staff would not know immediately if a patient was sent home. Secretaries on each nursing unit would walk around and check to see which patients were gone. As a result, vacant rooms often sat unused, even when other patients were waiting for them. "We'd have beds open, and we just didn't know it," Meadows says. Now, with discharge orders displayed immediately on the screens, it takes no more than six minutes to move patients out of the hospital's computer system, and to have the rooms cleaned and prepared for the next occupants.

"The biggest process change is being more diligent and more aggressive when a patient is ready to go home," says Kay Buchwald, a registered nurse and systems project lead at St. Vincent's. "It increases our awareness of the discharge process."


Rachid Mchachti 2013-07-03 07:31:33 PM
I am a cable assembler, so we need to know how many connector we have and how many cable length are used how can your system monitor and track this? Thanks

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