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Frisbie Memorial Hospital Takes RFID on Emergency Calls

The New Hampshire facility is tracking equipment and the temperature of medicine that emergency medical technicians take with them whenever an ambulance is dispatched.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 25, 2011When one of Frisbie Memorial Hospital's four emergency vehicles leaves the garage on an emergency call, the facility never entirely loses sight of the vehicle or some of the assets inside. Thanks to a system installed in September 2010, the Rochester, N.H., hospital uses GPS technology to track the vehicle's location and speed in real time, and RFID to determine if a piece of equipment was left behind by a vehicle's crew and what the temperature is inside a medicine bag.

When the hospital management started searching for technological solutions to emergency vehicle visibility in 2010, the greatest concern was monitoring the temperature of medications. Therefore, Frisbie began looking into tagging and tracking each medicine bag. "We weren't worried about medicine bags going away [getting lost], as much as we were worried that the temperature stayed within the required threshold," says John Levitow, Frisbie's director of EMS and preparedness. For example, on a hot summer day, a medicine bag could sit in the sun outside of the ambulance while personnel assisted a patient. After the bag was returned to the ambulance, there was no record as to how warm the medication might have gotten before it was again cooled to an acceptable temperature. The hospital also wanted to ensure that expensive equipment did not get lost.

The solution that Frisbie chose for its three ambulances and single interception vehicle (which transports needed equipment or people to an emergency site) was supplied by In Motion Technology. Through the combined use GPS and RFID technologies, the hospital has been able to collect data not just about the bags' temperatures but also when they were removed from the ambulance, how long they are outside the ambulance and if they were being left behind, explains Stephanie Hughes-White, In Motion's public relations manager. The GPS unit provides data about where the ambulance is and has been, and how fast it traveled. After the hospital began using the system to track the temperatures of its medicine bag, it opted to use RFID tags to also track some of its equipment and to receive an alert if a piece of equipment was not returned to the ambulance before the vehicle drove away.

"When I bought the system, I didn't think we'd have this kind of functionality," Levitow says. The hospital is small, but it receives 5,000 emergency calls per year, and he had expected to have access to a minimal amount of information—first the location of an ambulance itself via GPS, then the temperature of medicines onboard via RFID. Within several months after the automated system was installed, however, he thinks the technology has already provided a return on investment by ensuring that equipment doesn't get lost, and that medication is returned to cold storage before it can be spoiled.

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