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Mary Washington Hospital to Deploy RFID Facility-Wide

The 442-bed Virginia facility will utilize the system to track the locations of hundreds of cardiac telemetry units and other assets, as well as to monitor refrigerator temperatures.
By Beth Bacheldor
Dec 15, 2008In early 2009, Mary Washington Hospital, located in Fredericksburg, Va., plans to install active RFID tags and a real-time location system (RTLS) throughout its 442-bed facility, to track the hundreds of small cardiac telemetry units it employs to monitor patients' heart rates. The facility will also utilize the RTLS to track wheelchairs, IV pumps and other medical equipment, as well as to monitor the temperatures of refrigerators used to store medicines and vaccines.

The RTLS, supplied by RadarFind, is designed to let hospitals use wireless technology to track assets without having to burden Wi-Fi networks, which many organizations utilize for a variety of mission-critical health-care applications. At Mary Washington Hospital, for instance, doctors and nurses use the facility's Wi-Fi network to communicate via handheld devices.

Mary Washington Hospital

RadarFind's system includes active 902-928 MHz ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders that can be attached to assets and interrogators that plug directly into an outlet. The readers capture the tag's signal, which includes a unique ID number, and transmit that data wirelessly over the same UHF band, to so-called collectors installed around the hospital. The collectors (typically, one such device is installed on each floor of a facility) then pass the information on to a RadarFind server via a local area network.

The interrogators can calculate an item's location to within several feet on the floor on which it is located, using a combination of signal strength and trade-secret technologies. In addition, the readers utilize wireless synchronous multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology, a communication technique employing multiple antennas to receive data from the tags and eliminate multipath interference, thereby enabling an item's location to be determined more accurately. RadarFind's tag also features a switch to indicate an asset's condition. When the item is clean and available for use, for example, a nurse can slide a plastic cover to expose a green sticker. This also causes the tag to modulate its signal to denote that the asset is ready for use, so personnel using the RadarFind software to view a floor plan of the facility can observe both the asset's location and its status.

RadarFind has developed a new form factor of its RFID tag especially for Mary Washington Hospital. The cardiac telemetry units are designed to enable patients to walk around, rather than remain bed-ridden and hooked up to stationery devices. The units transmit the patients' heart rates to a system that skilled technicians monitor at all times; in the event that a problem arises, nurses and doctors can thus respond quickly. But because a cardiac telemetry unit is so small—not much bigger than a deck of cards—Mary Washington Hospital was unable to find an RTLS RFID tag on the market that could be attached to the device. "RadarFind was willing to develop this special tag and application, before we were even customers," says Andy Holden, the company's director of biomedical services.

RadarFind's chief medical officer, Vincent Carrasco, explains that this new tag will snap onto a piece of the cardiac telemetry unit. "What has really been challenging," he says, "is these devices are plugged into other units, and there are a number of different manufacturers of these devices." According to Carrasco, RadarFind will develop tags that can be used on a variety of cardiac telemetry units from different manufacturers.

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