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Johns Hopkins' New Facility Tracks Food, Assets, Staff

Versus IR/RFID hybrid technology enables the hospital to know the locations of its equipment and employees, as well as automated carts transporting food, with a goal of improving efficiency.
By Claire Swedberg
May 14, 2012When Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine opened its new 1.6 million-square-foot facility with two 12-story towers on May 1 of this year, the building featured a real-time location system (RTLS) that enables the hospital to monitor the locations of hundreds of nurses, as well as thousands of pumps, wheelchairs and other high-value moving equipment. Johns Hopkins is also utilizing the RTLS technology to track the movements of approximately 400 carts that are automatically transported via towlines to deliver food from the hospital's kitchen to patient units located throughout the building.

Johns Hopkins spent four years planning the RTLS solution, then tested the system within its simulations center and piloted it within operating rooms at its original facility. Now, the hospital has permanently installed the technology throughout its new building, which includes facilities for heart and vascular care, in addition to pediatrics.

Johns Hopkins' Mike McCarty
The new building, consisting of the Sheikh Zayed Tower and the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center, occupies five acres of the hospital's East Baltimore campus, replacing half of the original site. In anticipation of this new growth, the hospital began looking into RTLS solutions that would enable it to track assets, locate staff members and, eventually, monitor patient workflow, says Mike McCarty, the senior director and chief network officer for Johns Hopkins University and the Johns Hopkins Health System.

"We became interested in tracking equipment about six years ago," McCarty says. After testing technology supplied by multiple vendors, he explains, the hospital selected Versus Technology's Versus Advantages system. According to Susan Pouzar, Versus Technology's VP of sales, the hybrid infrared (IR) and RFID solution includes assets tags, employee badges, IR and RFID sensors (readers), and software to manage read data. Tags transmit an IR signal to IR sensors located within the area, while also sending an RFID transmission via 433 MHz to RFID sensors, using a proprietary air-interface protocol.

The hospital piloted Versus' technology two years ago within several operating rooms, McCarty reports, in order to track the location of equipment. "It became clear there was a tremendous opportunity in savings of people time," he states, due to the information that employees could access in the software regarding the equipment's location before and after surgical procedures. By knowing where each asset is typically stored, McCarty speculates—as well as the demand for equipment within each operating room—the storage and movement of these machines could be optimized to make them more available to staff members as they are needed. "We believe there's a huge savings there," he says.

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