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Virtua Health Expects Improved Bed Management From RFID

The New Jersey hospital operator's initial deployment will consist of 5,500 hybrid RFID-infrared tags from GE Healthcare, for tracking assets, patients and employees.
By Claire Swedberg
Nov 24, 2009New Jersey health-care company Virtua Health is installing an RFID system to track thousands of patients and staff members, as well as up to 10,000 assets, at its four hospitals, using a system provided by GE Healthcare. The system enables Virtua to better manage patient admissions by knowing, in real time, which beds are available. It also allows the firm to improve efficiency by knowing where assets are located, and to use RFID data to learn where hospital processes could be made more efficient.

The two companies have a history together, says Alfred Campanella, Virtua's CIO. Since 2000, he says, GE Healthcare has been providing Virtua Health with Six Sigma and lean principles management, as well as supplying such equipment as CAT scan and MRI devices, and a picture archiving computerized system (PACS) for digitizing radiology and cardiology images.

Alfred Campanella, Virtua's CIO
Within the next six months, Virtua will begin tracking its patients and assets using a GE system known as AgileTrac Enterprise, which consists of active 433 MHz RFID tags, readers, infrared emitters and software to manage data from the tags. The system can be used to track equipment, patients and employees, and enables the management of assets, patient rooms and emergency departments. "GE knew we were in the market for that kind of system," Campanella says. The company, which had acquired RFID firm Agility Healthcare Solutions in 2008, offered to provide Agility's AgileTrac system that would help Virtua meet its needs.

Virtua Health has more than 10,000 moveable pieces of equipment that Campanella would like to track, including wheelchairs, pumps, OR equipment and beds. For example, he says, the process of trying to quickly locate missing infusion pumps "creates a lot of chaos—not to mention the cost related to replacing equipment that doesn't necessarily need to be replaced."

Virtua was also concerned about bed management. When patients come through the emergency department at one of its hospitals, for instance, that facility needs to locate available beds. As other patients check out between 10 am and 4 pm, the hospital needs to be aware of a bed's status, in order to assign a new patient from the emergency department to that bed. AgileTrac will help manage that entire process, Campanella says.

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