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Washington Hospital Center to Quadruple Its RFID Expansion

Today, the MedStar hospital is using 700 active RFID tags; by spring, it will have more than 2,500 in operation across its entire campus.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 30, 2007By this spring, Washington Hospital Center will have one of the largest RFID systems in a hospital, covering 2.5 million square feet with more than 2,500 tags.

Working with Parco Wireless, a provider of ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID systems, the Washington, D.C., hospital first started its RFID project in 2004 in its emergency department, with only about 100 active tags and 20 interrogators (see Hospital Gets Ultra-Wideband RFID).

Ella Dade
Currently, the hospital has deployed more than 700 tags and connected about 475 RFID readers to a newly installed local area network spanning its entire campus, which includes several buildings standing eight stories in height, 18 square acres per level. The project also covers an outdoor staging area the hospital maintains in the event it ever needs to treat mass casualties.

The UWB RFID system is used to track and locate medical assets—mostly items for moving patients such as stretchers and wheelchairs, but also some beds and expensive items such as special radiology scopes—as well as personnel. Eventually, the system will be utilized to track patients as well.

"We're using RFID for all the known benefits from asset, personnel and patient tracking—including better inventory control and learning how frequently certain assets are utilized so we can better predict their lifecycles and better plan for future capital asset purchases, as well as the ability to evaluate patient care," says Ella Dade, director of special projects at Washington Hospital Center, a member of MedStar Health. "But we also see huge opportunity for research. When we begin to see patterns between data from, for example, a patient and a caregiver, we can start to answer questions about the doctor-and-patient relationship. Or, when we trend how long staff spends cleaning rooms, we can compare that with infection rates."

One of the 25 largest hospitals in the country, Washington Medical Center has a number of specialized capabilities—including the nation's largest trauma center, a regional burn center and a five-helicopter medevac program. The hospital also has a special responsibility as a core medical care resource for a terrorist attack or other mass-casualty incident. The real-time locating features of the RFID system will help the hospital more effectively respond to a mass incident, Dade says, as well as collect and monitor the large volume of information needed to deal with mass casualties.

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