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Washington State Clinic Doubles Visits With RTLS

The Canyon Park medical facility boosts patient satisfaction and reduces wait times via a Versus real-time location system that tracks patients, employees and assets.
By Claire Swedberg
Once the room has been assigned, the worker directs the patient to the examining room in which he or she should wait, and the patient then walks to the assigned room. As the patient enters that room, the ID number on the patient's badge is captured by the IR sensor, as well as by the RFID reader in the hallway. Its location within a specific room is determined, and is listed in the software, which also updates the image of the clinic map, thereby indicating a patient's presence in that examining room.

When a medical assistant enters the room, the system captures that person's ID number, updating the software to indicate which worker is with the patient at that time. Upon leaving, the MA presses a button on her own badge, indicating that she is finished, and the system displays the room in yellow, indicating to the appropriate physician that the patient is now ready to be examined. If a piece of equipment, such as an EKG machine, is brought into the room, the system is also updated to indicate which procedure the patient is receiving.

Once a physician has completed examining the patient, he presses a button on his own badge, signifying that the visit is over, and a message is displayed for the MA staff that the patient is ready for discharge. Employees then know when the patient leaves the room, and that it is thus ready to be cleaned and prepared for another occupant.

The software provides a list indicating in which room equipment is located, as well as how long it has remained at that spot, thereby enabling the clinic to reduce the amount of time that employees spend walking throughout the facility searching for required equipment. Additionally, the system provides historical data, such as how long each patient has spent in which area, the length of time that each physician or medical assistant spends with patients, and where delays may occur. For instance, if a patient appears to have had an especially long visit, management can look through the records and determine at which point the patient was delayed. Analysis can also be broken down by department—for example, determining an average visit's duration at the infusion area, or within the ophthalmology department.

Since the system's 2010 installation at Canyon Park Clinic, the facility reports that it has received the highest patient-satisfaction scores among all of Pacific Medical's 10 clinics: an 85 percent "excellent" rating for the overall visit during the first year, and 91 percent during the second year (the scores are based on questionnaires that the patients completed in regard to their visits, with 85 and 91 ratings signifying the percentage of patients who rated their visits as "excellent"). Because the MA staff spends less time looking for equipment, fellow employees or patients, as well as less time filling out paperwork regarding visits (recording data that is now automated thanks to the RTLS), they have more time to answer phone calls from patients, Pacific Medical Centers reports. Of the patients responding to a questionnaire about their satisfaction with regard to receiving timely assistance by phone, 73 percent rated their experience as "excellent."

Pacific Medical Centers is currently in the process of deploying the same solution at its Totem Lake location, with the expectation of going live with the technology in mid-May 2012. In the future, Pacific Medical also hopes to use data from the RTLS to provide physicians with automatic access to its Epic medical records software. When a doctor and a patient are in an examining room together, for example, the system could use the physician's badge ID to provide him or her with automatic access to a PC within the room, without requiring the doctor to sign in via a password, and (using the patient's badge ID) immediately pull up the medical records for that patient as well. This function, however, is not yet in use.

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