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Czech Oncology Center Uses Wi-Fi RTLS to Locate People, Equipment

The system has enabled the Masaryk Memorial Cancer Institute to reduce the number of items lost, and is improving safety by allowing patients to transmit requests for help to employees assigned to their ward.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 04, 2012The Masaryk Memorial Cancer Institute (MMCI), an oncology treatment facility located in the Czech Republic, is employing a Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) to enable patients to gain quick assistance in the event of an emergency, and to make staff members more efficient by tracking the locations of medical devices and patients. The solution was provided by Czech systems integrator Unis Computers, using tags and location software from Ekahau and Wi-Fi access nodes supplied by Cisco.

Based on the technology's ability to help employees locate equipment and patients, as well as receive alerts in real time, the hospital plans to expand the solution this year to a new pavilion currently under construction. What's more, the medical facility hopes to provide patients with additional services in the future, such as enabling them to use their Ekahau tags to send short messages—not just a generic request for help—to tags worn by members of the institute's staff.

MMCI has been in operation since 1935, providing complete diagnostics, treatment and preventive care in oncology for both Czech and international patients. The organization maintains a policy of viewing its patients as partners, respecting their privacy and providing some independence of movement for those able to leave their beds. Even so, it is vital that patients be able to reach staff members, and that they can be located quickly in the event of a fall or some other emergency. Many patients are elderly, some suffering from brain tumors or Alzheimer's disease, thus putting them at greater risk for an injury—or simply confusion causing them to require staff assistance.

To address that problem, MMCI adopted the RTLS solution so that staff members can determine where patients are located, and immediately reach those patients—or other employees—when necessary. The institute is also utilizing the system to improve staff efficiency, by reducing the amount of time workers spend searching for misplaced equipment, such as pumps or wheelchairs.

The facility had already begun using a Cisco Wi-Fi wireless local-area network (WLAN) in 2007, to allow staff members to receive and transmit data on tablet PCs, so management began seeking ways to further capitalize on that system by adding RTLS technology. The wireless infrastructure was already transforming productivity and patient care, says Marek Svoboda, MMCI's deputy director for development, science and training. Workers carried tablet PCs, using them to view real-time information at the point of need—in other words, at the site at which they treated a patient, such as at his or her bedside. At that time, some of the medical staff had previously visited the United States, where they had witnessed RTLS deployments in use, so the hospital launched a feasibility study regarding the installation of such a system at its own facility. The center began accepting quotes in April 2010 from vendors of such RTLS solutions, and signed with Unis Computers in June.

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