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Hospital RTLS Tracks Pumps' Status and Movement

A system from AeroScout enables Health First to monitor whether its infusion pumps are powered on, and to receive an alert if pumps or other assets fail to follow an expected path through cleaning or maintenance.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 09, 2010Florida health-care company Health First is employing a real-time location system (RTLS) to do more than just track its 1,200 infusion pumps, as well as specialty assets such as bariatric beds. The firm is using the system, provided by AeroScout, to monitor the temperatures of coolers at three of its facilities, in order to determine whether pumps are on or off, as well as to monitor their movement through the cleaning and maintenance process.

If an infusion pump passes from a hospital room to the cleaning area's entrance, the system determines that the pump will soon be cleaned and prepared for reuse. If it then leaves that location and is moved, for example, to another patient room without first being cleaned, an alarm is triggered, indicating that the pump was not properly processed. The system is also designed to determine whether a pump is currently in use. That allows management to measure the pump's utilization rate, as well as know which pumps are being used at any given time, thereby sparing health-care workers from having to search for a pump that turns out to already be in use.

Joel Cook, AeroScout's health-care solutions director
The company installed the system at its Brevard County facilities—Cape Canaveral Hospital, Holmes Regional Medical Center and Palm Bay Hospital—approximately two years ago. It is now in the process of building a fourth medical center, Viera Hospital, which is slated to open in 2011. That facility will utilize the system as well.

Due to the savings achieved from understanding where pumps are located (and from increasing their utilization rate) via the RTLS information, the company does not expect to need to purchase additional pumps for the new facility. Each pump costs about $3,000, and Vieira Hospital would require 100 to 120 pumps. Therefore, AeroScout estimates, Health First should save at least $300,000. Health First has declined to be interviewed for this article.

Health First attaches AeroScout active tags to some of its high-value assets. The tags transmit their ID numbers to the existing Wi-Fi access points throughout the three facilities. In the case of the infusion pumps, AeroScout's T2 tags are attached to a cable extending from each pump's serial-interface port. The tag queries the port to determine whether the pump is on or off, and then transmits that information, along with its own unique ID, at 2.4 GHz to the Wi-Fi access point in nearest proximity.

"Knowing the location of pumps is great, but knowing if it's in use is even better," says Joel Cook, AeroScout's health-care solutions director. In the future, he notes, Health First may opt to use pumps with built-in Wi-Fi access, but the AeroScout tags would still be used to provide location data when the pumps are powered off.

AeroScout's MobileView asset-tracking and -management software captures each pump's ID number, location and status (whether it is on or off), and then stores that information, making it available to be viewed in real time by managers or staff members seeking a particular pump. The MobileView software also follows the pump's path, determining which process it is undergoing based on its location, and issuing an alert if the expected maintenance path is not followed.

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