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Shawnee Mission Medical Center Expands Pediatric Tracking

The hospital has upgraded its 10-year-old system for tracking young patients, and also plans to begin tagging assets.
By Claire Swedberg
May 15, 2008With a decade of experience employing RFID technology, Shawnee Mission Medical Center (SMMC) has expanded its system to allow the real-time tracking of newborn babies and pediatric patients within its hospital. The 383-bed facility delivers 3,300 births per year—more than any other hospital in the Kansas City area.

The Safe Place Infant Security Solution 9450, installed and provided by RF Technologies, is an upgraded version of the system the company installed in 1998, shortly after a newborn infant was kidnapped from another Missouri hospital. The baby was recovered, but it took more than a week for authorities to locate the child. Although there has never been an infant abduction at Shawnee Mission, the hospital takes the security of babies very seriously, says Debbie Pahura, a pediatric specialist at SMMC's Women's Services Unit.

Debbie Pahura
With the initial RFID system, RF Technologies installed fixed interrogators at perimeter exits and entrances. An active (battery-powered) tag on each infant patient's wrist or ankle band transmitted a unique ID number to fixed portals mounted on doorways, at 66 kHz, whenever it came within a few feet of such portals. That data was routed to the hospital's back-end system, where RF Technologies software provided a graphical user interface linking the tag's ID with that particular patient, and displayed which door the baby was approaching. The transmitter on the wrist or ankle band set off an audible alarm at the doorway as well.

The problem with the original system, Pahura says, was that it experienced interference from a variety of devices, including electric toothbrushes, cellular phones and electrical storms. As a result, the hospital experienced frequent false alarms. Tom Quance, RF Technologies' managing director in hospitals, says the company had server access and monitored such interferences, alerting SMMC when there was interference to the system. "The system is no good if you have 100, 500 alarms a month," Quance says.

Deb Ohnoutka
As technology evolved, Pahura adds, the hospital began seeking alternative solutions. In the meantime, RF Technologies hired a nurse to provide clinical consulting and help modify its software to be most appropriate for the health-care industry. Under the nurse's guidance, the company designed a dashboard to assist the staff in monitoring the location of a given patient wearing an RFID tag in the hospital, as well as tracing where that patient had been.

In 2007, the hospital installed the resulting RF Technologies solution, known as the Safe Place Infant Security System, which features dual-frequency transmitters—active RFID tags that periodically emit signals at 262 kHz and 318 MHz. Doorway readers pick up the tags' 262 kHz transmissions, while others deployed elsewhere within the facility receive their 318 MHz signals. The use of higher frequencies is one reason the number of false alarms has been reduced. Later this month, the hospital also intends to have an asset-tracking system underway.

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