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Bon Secours Richmond Finds RFID Saves $2 Million Annually

The company is using a real-time location system from GE Healthcare to track assets, as well as certain surgery patients, and expects to expand the system to additional operating rooms.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 08, 2009After five years of employing an RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) to manage assets, and following 18 months of tracking patients in operating rooms, health-care company Bon Secours Richmond Health System has seen a savings of $2 million each year, according to Kathy Santini, the firm's VP of surgical service. Those results, she says, exceed the previously projected annual gain by $1.8 million.

The savings comes as a result of drastically reducing the amount of rental equipment utilized by the company's four hospitals, as well as by decreasing the incidence of lost or stolen equipment. But the system has also saved the staff time, Santini says—the average search time for missing equipment throughout the hospital, before installing the system, was 40 minutes. In addition, at St. Mary's—Bon Secours Richmond's largest hospital—OR staff had been placing between 300 and 400 calls daily to locate equipment required for surgeries. The RTLS solution, provided by GE Healthcare, has cut the number of phone calls in half, and has nearly eliminated the time spent searching for equipment.

After St. Mary's installed the system within its operating rooms, the hospital was able to reduce the amount of time necessary to prepare a room for a surgical procedure after finishing a prior operation. The system decreased preparation time from 45 minutes to 20 minutes, by providing an alert to staff members at the exact moment a patient leaves a surgical room, thereby notifying them that the room is ready to be cleaned and prepared for the next patient. Workers can also use the system to determine what has and has not been done in the room during that preparation, such as whether the necessary equipment has been brought in.

Based on the OR system's success in 20 of the 24 operating rooms at St. Mary's, Bon Secours Richmond intends to roll out the system at two more of its hospitals—St. Francis Medical Center and Memorial Regional Medical Center—in the coming months. A fourth facility, Richmond Community Hospital, performs little surgery and, thus, will not require the system. All four, however, are using the Agility system to track assets.

According to Santini, Bon Secours Richmond also plans to begin installing a patient-tracking system in the emergency departments at all of its hospitals—which have a total of 850 beds—during the next 18 months.

The wireless tracking system that Bon Secours Richmond is using was initially proposed in 2003 by Fran Dirksmeier, president and CEO of RTLS firm Agility—now part of GE Healthcare, where Dirksmeier currently serves as the general manager of AgileTrac Solutions. Dirksmeier and Santini already knew each other, Santini says, and Dirksmeier pitched the idea of a system that would help locate missing assets within the facility. The system Agility installed in 2004—known as AgileTrac Asset Manager—would be the first RTLS the company deployed, Dirksmeier says (see Hospitals Get Healthy Dose of RFID).

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