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Apollo Hospital Chennai Uses RFID to Speed Up Check-ups

The system tracks 250 patients simultaneously as they undergo dozens of diagnostic procedures in half a day, thereby improving traffic flow and saving many hours of time.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 11, 2010Apollo Hospital Chennai, India's largest health-care facility, is employing an Icegein real-time locating system (RTLS), with Ekahau tags, to move 250 patients a day through a series of up to 26 diagnostic procedures. The system, installed in May of this year, has enabled the hospital to improve the flow of patients through the process, and to save each patient hours of time that previously may have been spent waiting for a procedure to take place. Although it is still too early to measure all of the benefits derived from the system, the deployment is expected to not only shorten the time patients spend at the hospital, but also allow the facility to serve more patients each day, due to the added efficiency it provides.

Apollo was the first of India's hospitals to provide a "package" consisting of all of a patient's annual health-care diagnostic needs in a single day. Rather than undergo each procedure at a separate location and at a different time of the year, a patient can schedule a series of procedures to be held on the same day at the hospital. Once annually, each patient arrives at 7 a.m. and proceeds through as many as 26 procedures, by moving from one department to the next. Those may include blood tests, x-rays, echocardiograms, sonograms and mammograms, in order to measure the patient's health. Since Apollo implemented the plan, other Indian health-care companies have been offering similar programs as well.

During check-ups, patients at Apollo Hospital Chennai wear Ekahau T301B badge tags to track their locations and the diagnostic procedures they undergo.
However, because of the hospital's size, as well as the large population of the community it serves (there are 3.5 million people living in the city of Chennai alone), the number of patients is large—about 250 each day—and managing their movements throughout the many departments was a challenge. Patients were not always clear which department they should report to next, they could end up waiting unnecessarily in the wrong area, and bottlenecks were often created by too many patients in one location and not enough in another, thereby leading to delays. Although the procedures begin at 7 a.m. and should be completed by about 11 or 11:30, says Anand Surana, Icegein's CEO, patients were often still in the hospital until 3 p.m. or later, which placed limits on the number of people who could be served during a given day.

The Icegein system consists of active RFID tags for each patient, Wi-Fi nodes to read those tags, Icegein software to interpret and manage the read data, and digital monitors to display directions to patients. The system transmits data from Ekahau 2.45 GHz RFID tags to 24 Cisco Wi-Fi nodes, which Icegein and Cisco installed throughout the diagnostics portion of the building. Information from the nodes—the tag's ID number and its location based on the IDs of the Wi-Fi nodes receiving the transmission—is then forwarded to Icegein software known as Patient Mantra, residing on the hospital's back-end database, which interprets location data and links that information to the existing patient-management software system that Apollo uses to manage data related to patient visits and billing.

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