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Children's Hospital Colorado to Expand Wireless Sensor System

The hospital reports that TempSys' CheckPoint solution has already paid for itself "a couple of times over," by reducing the amount of labor required to track temperatures within blood coolers and other units.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 17, 2012Children's Hospital Colorado, located in the city of Aurora, is installing RFID sensors to monitor the temperatures of refrigerators, blood coolers, blanket warmers and other heating or cooling appliances within the new 10-story tower that it is currently constructing. Temperature fluctuation can have a damaging effect on such products as medications, blood or food, and can become a safety hazard, for example, if a patient were to receive food stored at fluctuating temperatures, or if a warmer had overheated a blanket. The temperature-monitoring solution, known as CheckPoint, is being provided by TempSys.

Five years ago, Children's Hospital Colorado first began deploying TempSys' RFID temperature sensors at what was then a brand-new facility. Currently, the hospital is using the CheckPoint system to track the temperatures of 641 heating or cooling units throughout its premises, every five to 15 minutes. During the past three years, the hospital has been able to utilize the technology to diagnose and reduce temperature fluctuations within the coolers and heaters, bringing the number of daily alarms from an average of 50 to 60 alerts per day for 400 units, down to 7.8 alerts daily for the 641 units. Additional cooling units are slated to be equipped with the CheckPoint solution as they are installed within the new tower, bringing the number of RFID-enabled units up to 850 by the end of this year, and 1,000 by the end of 2013, estimates Harry (Butch) Wilcox, the hospital's non-clinical equipment lead.

Thanks to the RFID sensor system, the hospital discovered that it could reduce temperature fluctuations within a certain type of refrigerator by installing a false plastic back.

The CheckPoint RFID sensor tags operate at 904 to 926 MHz, says Bob Yuan, TempSys' president and CEO, and deploying the system typically involves the installation of repeaters that forward tag transmissions to a gateway. In this case, however, the medical facility required a solution that would operate on its distributed antenna system, provided by Mobile Access, which can receive RF signals operating within the 400 MHz to 2.5 GHz range. The distributed antenna system, which was installed as the facility was constructed, provides Wi-Fi and cellular phone access throughout the hospital.

Harry (Butch) Wilcox, Children's Hospital Colorado's non-clinical equipment lead
Children's Hospital Colorado first explored a temperature-monitoring system in 2006, at the same time that it built a new facility in Aurora. Though it considered using the CheckPoint repeaters—which the hospital wanted to install within its ceilings—the vast quantity of repeaters that would have been required, as well as the labor involved in installing them, would have been prohibitive. The hospital was already deploying the distributed antenna system to manage wireless data and cellular transmission, and thus opted to include the CheckPoint system on that backbone. TempSys' RFID sensors would transmit their own unique ID numbers, along with temperature or other sensor data, to the nearest antenna, which would then forward that information to the CheckPoint software residing on the hospital's server. Hospital management could then view the conditions at each cooling or heating unit, and an alert could be sent to them via an e-mail or text message in the event of a problem (such as a temperature rising too high or dropping too low).

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