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RFID Improves Communication at Finnish Clinic

Docrates is using a Wi-Fi-based system from Ekahau to not only locate patients, who are free to roam about the medical center, but also enable employees and patients to send messages to each other.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 12, 2010Docrates Clinic, a private facility in Helsinki, Finland, that specializes in cancer diagnostics, treatment and follow-up care, is using a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) not only to locate staff members and patients, but also to allow communication between them. The system features RTLS software and RFID wristbands and badges from Ekahau, as well as a Wi-Fi network infrastructure provided by Cisco Systems. The clinic, which opened in May 2009, performs radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgical procedures on as many as 600 patients annually, most of whom are seen as outpatients—though it also has seven beds for inpatients who typically stay for one or two nights. The clinic is growing, says Harri Puurunen, Docrates' managing director, and intends to treat up to 1,400 cancer patients each year by 2013.

Though a health-care facility, Docrates Clinic tries to not always feel like one, Puurunen says. Patients are encouraged to stroll around the campus between procedures—or, for inpatients, to be up and out of bed when possible. What's more, workers rarely sit behind desks, but rather walk about the site, tending to patients. Consequently, the clinic had sought a method for locating patients and letting them know when they need to meet with a medical practitioner, or undergo a procedure.

Harri Puurunen, Docrates' managing director
The hospital also sought a system that would enable visiting patients to reach members of its staff in the event of an emergency, and that would allow employees to communicate with each other when necessary. In addition, management wanted the staff to have the ability to see exactly where patients and workers were located at any given time.

When the clinic first opened, a nurse-calling system was installed in several departments. "This kind of wired system is fixed to limited locations," Puurunen explains, "and we recognized the need to expand the system." In fall 2009, the organization began looking into finding a wireless alternative that could cover the entire facility. "A person who needs first aid might be a patient in chemotherapy treatment, or a visitor in our conference room," he says, "or, a radiographer in radiotherapy who needs additional help with a wheelchair patient. The system had to be flexible and easily configurable for future needs."

Docrates chose a solution featuring Ekahau Wi-Fi battery-powered RFID transponders—specifically, T301W tags, which come in the form of patient wristbands, and T301BD badge tags, which are attached to lanyards that staff members can wear around their necks. The solution was installed over the course of about two weeks by systems integrator Vintor.

In the case of the wristbands, the tag transmits its unique identifier to Cisco Wi-Fi nodes throughout the facility as a patient moves about the campus. The nodes receive the ID number of that patient's tag, then forward that ID to Ekahau standalone software running on the hospital's server. The software links the ID number with the individual wearing the tag, as well as that person's location, based on which Wi-Fi nodes had received the transmission.

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