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Philly Hospital Uses RTLS to Track Patient Flow, Care and Training

Teaching hospital Albert Einstein Medical Center is using ultrasonic ID tags not only to monitor patient flow, but also to provide performance feedback to its residents and interns.
By Beth Bacheldor
May 29, 2009Like a growing number of hospitals, the Albert Einstein Medical Center is leveraging a real-time location system (RTLS) to locate patients, employees and medical devices. But the Philadelphia teaching hospital has taken its RTLS beyond simple tracking—it's utilizing the system to monitor the training of residents and interns, and to track the work and efficiency of its doctors and nurses.

The RTLS combines Sonitor's ultrasound-based indoor positioning system (IPS) with Amelior EDTracker software from Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS). Amelior EDTracker is designed to help a hospital's emergency departments monitor and analyze patients' physical locations, as well as the status of their care, then display that information in charts and graphs via computers located throughout the department. Most of the computers are at three pods throughout the department, but the application can also be accessed via computers located on carts that can be wheeled from room to room.

Dr. Albert Villarin Jr., the hospital's chief medical information officer, standing next to one of the emergency department's computers, which staffers can log into in order to check a patient's location and status

Sonitor's IPS utilizes battery-powered tags that transmit 20 kHz to 40 kHz acoustic signals to receivers. Through frequency modulation, each tag communicates a unique ID number to the receivers, which employ Sonitor's patented Digital Signal Processing (DSP) algorithms to calculate the signals' locations and convert them to data. The receivers then transmit the location and tag data to a central computer via an existing LAN, and that information is then used to populate the Amelior EDTracker software.

The hospital first began seeking an automated way to monitor patient flow back when it embarked on a $10 million expansion and renovation of the emergency department, according to Dr. Albert Villarin Jr., the hospital's chief medical information officer. Around that time, Villarin witnessed a demonstration of PCTS' Amelior EDTracker, and the hospital decided to try it out.

Back then, however, PCTS' software mainly worked with infrared tags, so Albert Einstein Medical Center initially began utilizing that tracking technology. Infrared signals, however, generally require an unobstructed line of sight between the tag and the sensor. That posed challenges when attempting to track patients, as the infrared tags would sometimes inadvertently end up under the patients, blocking the required line of sight between a tag and the reader.

In September 2008, therefore, the hospital switched from an infrared system to Sonitor's ultrasound technology, after PCTS had worked with Sonitor to build links between the company's products and PCTS' software, which PCTS announced in May 2007.

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