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Wi-Fi Tags Reduce Risk of Falling at Elder-Care Facility

Samarinda Lodge says the system enables employees to respond to residents' needs and requests more quickly, resulting in increased productivity and staff retention.
By Dave Friedlos
Feb 16, 2010Samarinda Aged Services, an Australian elder-care provider based in Melbourne, has improved the safety of its residents and the productivity of its staff through a Wi-Fi-based RFID system enabling it to monitor residents and equipment.

The company is employing active Wi-Fi-based RFID tags and software from real-time location system (RTLS) provider AeroScout to track residents inside and outside one its facilities, known as Samarinda Lodge. The tags are also equipped with a button that residents can press to call for help.

A resident in need of help can press the call button on the AeroScout Wi-Fi tag, which is fastened to the wrist via an elastic band.

The system has already helped improve staff response times and resident safety, the company reports, as well as increasing employee productivity and retention rates. What's more, the amount of time workers spent walking between tasks has been reduced from 10 percent to 4 percent, and the time dedicated to resident care has increased from 51 percent to 68 percent. This, according to Samarinda Lodge, has led to increased staff satisfaction, and retention rates have risen to 25 percent above the industry average

Faced with limited resources in the aged-care industry, Samarinda's chief executive, Tanya Gilchrist, wanted a system that would reduce the time employees spent searching for residents and equipment, so that the time allotted for resident care would be maximized.

RFID has previously been used in the aged-care industry. In 2007, Queensland-based PresCare also rolled out a Wi-Fi-based system from AeroScout, to track residents and alert staff members through a tag affixed to lanyards worn around the neck (see Wi-Fi-Based RFID Improves Elderly Care). Last year, residents at Dogwood Village's assisted-living facility in Virginia were provided with RFID-enabled pendants to summon aid (see Answering the Call at Senior Care Facility). Also last year, a Florida care home sewed passive tags into its 70 residents' clothing, so that the staff would be alerted if any residents attempted to leave the premises (see RFID Gives Dementia Patients Their Freedom). But Samarinda's system has combined monitoring residents with an alert system and asset tracking.

Samarinda conducted studies, which indicated that workers spent more than two hours each day searching for personnel, residents and equipment. "The study showed us that we needed to improve our communication systems and reduce the amount of time staff spent walking around, looking for each other, resources and residents," Gilchrist explains. "So we worked in conjunction with IBM to implement an integrated communication system to address the problem."

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