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OHSU Hospitals Expand RFID Deployment

Oregon Health & Science Healthcare continues to find additional uses for its AeroScout Wi-Fi system, five years after it was first installed.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 30, 2010Five years ago, Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) Healthcare was among the early adopters of radio frequency identification, using Wi-Fi-based tags to track assets around its facilities. The organization—which operates OHSU Hospital and OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital at its Marquam Hill Campus, in Portland—already had a Cisco Unified wireless network in place when it selected a tracking solution from AeroScout, with RFID tags that would speak to its existing Cisco nodes.

The hospital is more than just an early RFID adopter, says Joel Cook, AeroScout's health-care solutions marketing director. "It takes a methodical approach to adoption," Cook states, and OHSU continues to evolve as it adopts technology at a measured pace. Beginning with several hundred items—mostly infusion pumps—the hospital ensured that the system worked, and then began gradually adding more tags to such items as specialty beds and wheelchairs. The facility has tagged 2,500 mobile assets to date, and expects to have tagged another 1,000 such items by the end of this year.

DennisMinsent, OHSU's director of clinical technology services
From the onset, the hospital aimed to reduce the time staff members spent seeking equipment at its Portland facilities, says Dennis Minsent, OHSU's director of clinical technology services. The AeroScout Wi-Fi T2 tags transmit a unique ID number to the medical center's existing Cisco Wi-Fi nodes, which forward that ID to AeroScout's MobileView software, residing on the hospital's back-end system, where the tag's location is pinpointed on a map of OHSU's nine buildings, which range from five to 14 stories in height. Nurses using the system were able to reduce the time they spent walking the floor in search of equipment.

After five years of utilizing the technology throughout its nine-building campus, Minsent says he doesn't measure the system's success in terms of numbers. It was not a return on investment he was watching for, he notes, but rather greater one-on-one time between patients and nurses.

Initially, the system was installed to track the locations of assets across OHSU's nine buildings, which comprise a total of 1,091,211 square feet. But shortly after that installation, the hospital began installing AeroScout T5 sensor tags within its coolers—both refrigerators and freezers—to track the temperatures of the units that stored pharmaceuticals, lab specimens, breast milk and food. "We needed a system to easily document and track temperatures," Minsent says, "as well as comply with regulatory issues."

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