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Rehab Center Monitors Patients With Ultra-wide Band

The Nesconset Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation will use hardware from Time Domain Corp. and software from Sysgen to monitor individual dementia patients based on their needs.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 27, 2008The Nesconset Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation, located in Nesconset, N.Y., is implementing a real-time location system (RTLS) that utilizes ultra-wide band (UWB) technology to track patients, staff and equipment. The system, which includes hardware from RTLS provider Time Domain Corp. and RFID tracking software from Sysgen Data Ltd., will help the center keep patients safer by tracking their whereabouts and alerting staff if they wander off.

A few years ago, Robert Heppenheimer, executive director and owner of the Nesconset center, began seeking a real-time, RFID-enabled wander-prevention system for a smaller nursing facility he also owns (which, to date, has not yet deployed the system). But after investigating the technology and discussing options with Raphael Feldman, Sysgen's CEO, Heppenheimer says he realized the technology was not quite ready. Therefore, he settled for existing wander-prevention technology similar to electronic article surveillance (EAS) security systems employed in retail stores, that simply issues an alert, such as an audible alarm, or locks a door whenever a resident wearing a wristband gets too close to any doorways secured by special gates.

"This existing wander-prevention technology is static," Heppenheimer says. "There's no way to differentiate patients. Nursing homes are all about individualizing care. So if I'm a low-risk resident and I walk by that door, the alarm is going to ring every time. For us, though, it really is important to know which resident is walking by that door, and then tailor our responses to each resident's needs."

Heppenheimer, continuing his quest for real-time tracking, stayed in touch with Feldman and assisted with the development of tracking software. In 2007, Heppenheimer began considering several RFID RTLS vendors, ultimately choosing Time Domain's system for Nesconset, a 240-resident facility with a special-care unit for Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients. The center began implementing Time Domain's UWB hardware in January of this year.

Time Domain's PLUS platform consists of active UWB RFID tags, interrogators, ceiling-tile antennas, synchronization distribution panels and software. UWB tags emit a series of extremely short signals (billionths of a second or less), with each signal spanning a wide band of frequencies ranging from 3.1 to 10.6 GHz. The pulsed signals act much like sonar waves, enabling the system to determine distance by measuring the length of time it takes a pulse to travel from one point (such as a tag) to another (an interrogator, for instance), and by using time distance of arrival (TDOA) technology to calculate location.

At Nesconset, patients in the dementia unit are being outfitted with UWB tags known as Smart Buddies. The tags are attached to bands that can be worn on the wrists or ankles, or placed on wheelchairs. Interrogators and antennas placed throughout the unit capture each tag's unique identification number, and the system determines each tag's location by room, as well as by zones defined in the unit's hallways.

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