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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
Virtua is initially installing the system at its hospital in Voorhees, N.J., even though the building that the hospital currently occupies is scheduled to close in 2011, when the facility will move to a newly constructed building. The system will be used in the older building now, he says, to acclimate staff members to that system before they utilize it at the new 700,000-square-foot facility. "We want them to get used to the system," Campanella says. AgileTrac will go live at the building in approximately six months, he estimates, and the new facility will also be built with the AgileTrac system. Once the old facility is closed, the hardware will be used in some of the other three hospitals.

The AgileTrac system software, on a server hosted by Virtua Health, will be integrated with the hospital's admission system and electronic medical records software. In that way, a record of each patient's admissions data (such as his or her name and date of birth) can be linked to the tag's unique ID number, as well as data related to the health-care services that person receives while at the hospital. The AgileTrac system software comes with four modules: one for equipment management, one for bed and room management, one for operating rooms and one for the emergency department. Authorized users can determine an asset's location in any of the modules by opening either a floor map, on which icons are displayed representing each tagged item, or by using a search function (similar to Google) and typing in the name of a required piece of equipment.

Initially, the first hospital (the existing Voorhees site, and then the new facility) will employ 4,000 asset tags, 1,500 patient tags, 38 RFID interrogators and 283 IR emitters. The second hospital will utilize 1,500 asset tags, 500 patient tags, 16 readers and 143 emitters. The third facility is expected to use 2,000 asset tags, 1,000 patient tags, 19 readers and 177 emitters. Finally, the fourth site will use 4,000 asset tags, 2,000 patient tags, 52 readers and 416 emitters. Virtua intends to install the system at the second, third and fourth hospitals within the next three and a half years.

As a result of helping Virtua's staff better know where patients are and when they leave, Campanella says, the system is likely to improve patient flow, thereby enabling a better patient experience. He also expects the system will help the hospital ensure that the necessary equipment is available—which is Virtua's first priority. "We want the patients to feel assured that we're trying to make it as easy, convenient and smooth as possible," he states. In addition, the company hopes to use the system to provide it with historical data, such as patient throughput, as well as where bottlenecks occur, and when. "It's hard to change what you can't measure," he says, "and the more you measure, the better chance you have to properly address the problems at hand, and then also measure your response to that problem."

Finally, Campanella adds, Virtua hopes to save money on assets by improving its equipment management. "Every year, we buy extra equipment because we are short," he says. With the RFID system, he hopes to significantly reduce the need to order replacement assets.

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