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Wi-Fi RFID Alerts Espirito Santo Saude's Staff

Ekahau badges and call buttons enable employees at two Portuguese health-care facilities to quickly identify the location of an emergency.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 01, 2010Espirito Santo Saúde, a health-care company that runs 17 facilities across Portugal, has improved its emergency response speed and begun tracking assets with a real-time locating system (RTLS) intended to allow staff members and patients at two of its sites to obtain help in a hurry if an emergency occurs. The system, installed by Unisys, includes a combination of Ekahau badges and wall-mounted call buttons that can signal alerts over the existing Wi-Fi system at the health-care company's facilities.

Simplicity was a priority for the company, which wanted a solution that could be quickly installed and allow the sending and receiving of emergency alarms wirelessly. The second challenge for the hospital was location, says David Vieira, Espirito Santo Saúde's director of IT and communications infrastructures—not only with regard to locating the room from which an alarm was sent, but also locating assets that workers had difficulty finding. The firm's new RTLS solves both problems, he says.

Of its 17 facilities—15 of which are hospitals, the other two provide assisted-living services—the company identified two of its more recently constructed facilities, each of which already included a Wi-Fi infrastructure. At Casas da Cidade, an assisted-living facility for senior citizens, the aim was to enable the staff, as quickly as possible, to be alerted to an emergency involving its residents, who are free to move about the building. At the other site, acute-care provider Hospital da Luz, call buttons are being used in public spaces and private rooms to summon help during an emergency.

The health-care company began working with Unisys in 2007 to find a suitable location system. "After getting a deeper understanding about the possible applications of the technology, two pilots were delivered in 2008," says Dinis Fernandes, Unisys Portugal's global outsourcing and infrastructure services country director. The objective for both Casas da Cidade and Hospital da Luz, he explains, was to decrease the time between when a resident or patient called for help and when employees arrived to address their concerns. Espirito Santo Saúde hoped for a system with which mobile residents and patients could call for a nurse wherever they might be within the facilities, and with which staff members could view that emergency notification no matter their location.

At Casas da Cidade, residents live in 115 town houses and other private residences. At the time of the RTLS installation, in 2009, it was a new facility lacking a nurse-calling system. By installing this system, Vieira says, Espirito Santo Saúde hopes to differentiate Casas da Cidade as a facility that brings patient safety to a higher level. "It's crucial to know where [elderly residents] are when they ask for help," he states. "In these moments, [knowing] the precise location can save precious minutes."

Management wanted a system that could be deployed in a few hours, rather than in the days or weeks that would be needed to set up a traditional nurse-calling system. Unisys installed several more Wi-Fi access points to ensure full coverage of the entire facility. Ekahau wireless call buttons were then attached to walls in some public waiting areas, as well as in all residences, and a sign was posted beside each button to indicate it should be pressed in the event of an emergency.

Once a button is pressed, the tag inside the device transmits its ID number to the access points, and that data is sent to Ekahau's Vision Web-based software, residing on Casas da Cidade's back-end server. The ID number is linked to the location based on the specific Wi-Fi access points receiving that transmission. The Vision software then issues the alert to the Ekahau T301BD badges worn by approximately 10 nurses and physicians. The location of the particular button that elicited the emergency call is displayed on each badge's LCD screen. Employees can also signal alerts by pulling an emergency switch on their own badges. The wall-mounted call buttons can be removed from the wall and installed elsewhere at any time, and the system can immediately determine a button's new location, enabling the device to operate at that new site.

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