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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
The asset-tracking portion of the deployment at Bon Secours Richmond's hospitals included tagging 11,000 assets, such as IV pumps, wheelchairs and stretchers, with 433 MHz active RFID tags, to make the management of equipment more effective. (Originally, the AgileTrac system relied on 303 MHz battery-powered RFID tags, but those have since been replaced with 433 MHz tags.) "Bon Secours instinctively knew they were spending too much money on assets," Dirksmeier states, in terms of rental costs, time spent searching for equipment, and equipment that was unusable due to misplacement or cleaning delays.

The Asset Manager software broke the reader areas into zones, each representing a separate section of the hospital, thus helping the staff determine on which particular floor or wing an asset was located. The system immediately began saving time on equipment searches, as well as money on rentals, and Bon Secours proceeded to install RFID readers at all four of its Richmond hospitals.

Around the time that Agility was acquired by GE Healthcare in 2007, Dirksmeier and Santini began discussing the idea of expanding the system to include the movement of patients through the St. Mary's surgical wing, which includes 24 operating rooms on two floors. Because GE Healthcare provides lean practices consulting, Bon Secours Richmond opted to incorporate GE's lean business practices assistance with an expansion of the Agility system. What's more, Dirksmeier says, GE's Agility division began upgrading the Bon Secours system to include infrared (IR) capabilities.

Once it switched from the 303 MHz tags to 433 MHz RFID tags with built-in infrared receivers, and also installed IR emitters in each room, Bon Secours Richmond was able to pinpoint a tag's location within a room rather than within a zone of the building. The IR emitter on the ceiling at the center of each room transmits an IR signal to the tags, which transmit their own unique ID number in turn, along with that of the emitter, to the RFID readers. The readers, wired to the hospital's back-end system, send that data to be interpreted by the AgileTrac software.

The OR portion of the system employs a software suite known as AgileTrac Enterprise to help manage workflow for staff members, by tracking the movement of patients and equipment in the hospital's pre-operative, operating and recovery rooms. In mid-2008, St. Mary's installed flat-screen monitors in its surgical wing, so that the RTLS software could display location data in order to ensure on-time starts to surgery, and to decrease wait times. Doctors and nurses have been using touch-screen features to notify appropriate personnel when a patient is ready for the next step in surgery, and the system automatically notifies workers once a patient enters the recovery area, so that preparations for the next procedure can begin immediately.

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