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NIQ Health Adds RTLS to Its Nurse-Call Platform

A partnership between Next Intelligence Corp. and CenTrak enables distributors of NIQ's CarePlus system to sell RTLS technology as an add-on function to track the locations of staff members and patients.
By Claire Swedberg
"Our approach is to provide an open platform to interface with other systems," Clabaugh explains. The CarePlus system functions as a workflow engine to manage data from a variety of systems, he says, noting that over the past year, his company began seeking an RTLS firm that could provide it with a location-technology add-on for its CarePlus system. "We looked at the market and identified CenTrak as the leader," he states. "It has an elegant solution—the fact that it's RFID and IR is fantastic."

The CarePlus solution consists of an appliance, or box, with NIQ Health software loaded on it, to capture data from nurse calls or other systems (such as temperature-tracking technology) within the hospital, and to then route that message to the appropriate party. According to Clabaugh, the CarePlus system requires no modification to include the CenTrak technology.

"The key point of all of this is that the distributors are the trusted provider for a facility," Clabaugh says. For that reason, he adds, customers are likely to trust their existing distributors, seek them out for solutions and use the technology that the distributors recommend. With this partnership, Clabaugh reports, NIQ Health's distributors can offer both the nurse-call and RTLS badges and readers, and the entire solution can be purchased from NIQ via a distributor. To date, the company has been speaking with existing and potential customers in Australia and the United States that would like to incorporate the RTLS functionality into their systems.

Users of the CarePlus system that opt to utilize the RTLS solution could install Centrak IR beacons and RFID readers throughout their facility. These beacons transmit a unique ID number via infrared, says Mark Nowakowski, CenTrak's VP of sales. That ID is then received by any of the CenTrak active 900 MHz RFID tags used by workers or patients within the vicinity. The tag transmits the location beacon's ID number via RFID, along with its own unique ID, to interrogators installed on-site. The readers then receive that information and forward it to the CarePlus appliance via an Ethernet cable.

The tag's location is calculated in the CarePlus software, based on the IR beacon's ID number received by that tag. The software can also be customized for each badge. An alert could be triggered, for example, if a particular individual reached a specific location (an exit, for instance), thereby enabling a facility to monitor patients with a tendency to wander. In this case, such actions could be detected by the CarePlus system, and then be routed to cell phones or e-mail accounts accordingly.

Although staff location is one of the primary applications for the CenTrak functionality, Clabaugh says, customers have indicated an interest in utilizing the technology for patient management, in order to reduce the risk of patients wandering away from authorized areas.

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