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Brooke Army Medical Center Prepares RTLS Expansion

The 3-million-square-foot facility is adding Ekahau's Wi-Fi-based tags and Conexus' Plexus software to its new 200-bed tower, scheduled to open next month.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 14, 2011Two months after installing a real-time locating system (RTLS) to track thousands of items within its facility, the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is preparing to expand its use of the solution to its new 200-bed tower, slated to open in November 2011. The hospital is employing the Plexus Asset Tracking System, provided by Conexus, as well as Wi-Fi-based tags from Ekahau. The data is integrated with the center's Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support (DMLSS) asset-management software.

BAMC consists of the San Antonio Military Medical Center (SAMMC), as well as four other treatment facilities located in San Antonio. The largest military hospital in the United States, it spans 3 million square feet and contains 450 beds. During the next few weeks, the health-care center plans to open a new 750,000-square-foot tower housing an outpatient pediatrics clinic, an expanded emergency and trauma department, and psychiatric nursing units, in addition to an expansion of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research (USAISR) Burn Center, which will be fully equipped with the same Plexus wireless solution.

Conexus has a 12-year history working with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), says Blakely Clauson, Plexus' product manager. Since 1999, the company's software has been used to manage the DOD's Aero-Medical Evacuation Patient Movement Items, by means of bar-coded labels applied to medical equipment sent to other hospitals treating injured soldiers. The system, intended to address the loss of equipment transported from one medical facility to another, is currently still in place, with approximately 20,000 items being tracked by the DOD. According to Clauson, $40 million worth of medical equipment was lost during the Gulf War.

In Texas, BAMC sought an RTLS solution that could be integrated with its own equipment-management software, thereby enabling employees to continue using that system, while sharing its data—such as descriptions, serial numbers and maintenance history—with the Plexus RTLS software. In that way, says Amy Sheehan, the chief of BAMC's equipment-management branch, new materials received and input into BAMC's existing management system would automatically appear with the appropriate nomenclature in an RTLS solution.

Due to its vast size, BAMC required a technology solution that could help staff members locate high-value equipment in need of maintenance or inspection, as well as items required simply to treat patients. For "a facility of this magnitude," Sheehan explains, "[RTLS] will give us the ability to complete monthly inventories and preventative services efficiently." Previously, she says, searches for equipment within the large facility were accomplished by walking through the rooms in which those assets were expected to be stored, and confirming whether they were, in fact, at those locations. If any equipment was missing, a procedure was required that included investigating the missing items and filling out forms accounting for how or when they were misplaced. This process, in addition to the monthly inventories, was extremely time-consuming, Sheehan notes.

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