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Veterans Affairs Implementing RTLS Across Seven Midwest Hospitals
The facilities, located in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, are installing six different types of real-time location systems, as well as passive RFID tags and other auto-ID technologies, with all data managed by Intelligent InSites software on a single platform.
VISN 11 spent at least five years evaluating the proper RTLS solutions that would accommodate the seven medical centers. Each facility required a system for four use cases—the tracking and management of assets, the monitoring of temperature and humidity levels, the tracking of items for the cardiac catheterization lab, and the sterile processing services (SPS) workflow related to surgical instruments. One of those hospitals (located in Ann Arbor, Mich.) has now been taken live with its RTLS solution for most of the use cases being targeted. Another is nearing completion, while a third is beginning installation this month, with three more in the early stages of implementation. The final center is slated to go live in May 2013.
The centers are installing a variety of RTLS hardware technologies, each selected to provide the best results for the specific hospital and the needs of its staff. The technologies include Wi-Fi-based RFID solutions provided by AeroScout and Ekahau, a hybrid infrared (IR) and 900 MHz active RFID tag system from CenTrak, an IR and 900 MHz active RFID tag solution supplied by RF Code, a ZigBee-based active RFID tag system from Skytron and Awarepoint, and an ultrasound-based RTLS solution from Sonitor Technologies. In addition, a variety of passive RFID tags and handheld readers are being utilized.
At each medical center, the active RTLS solutions track and locate high-value mobile medical equipment, such as infusion pumps, patient monitors, ventilators, wheelchairs and hospital beds. Passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags are being applied to lower-valued items, in order to speed up inventory processes and automate reordering, typically by hospital staff members equipped with handheld readers.
Passive 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) tags compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, provided by WaveMark, are applied to consumables, such as catheters and stents, stored in RFID-enabled cabinets within the cardiac catheterization labs, to automatically assess quantities on hand, and adjust PAR levels as needed. HF technology, as opposed to UHF, transmits more effectively around the concentration of metal in the cabinets (for example, catheters are often packaged in aluminum). However, adds Marcus Ruark, Intelligent InSites' director of business development, UHF is better for reading tags from a distance, such as identifying tagged items within entryways or open areas.
With SPS areas, 2-D bar codes are being applied to surgical equipment using a surgical instrument-tracking solution from Censis Technologies, and are then scanned manually prior to and following surgical procedures. This is done to be sure that equipment is available before an operation and is properly managed afterwards, thereby ensuring the items' cleaning, sterilization and preparation for subsequent surgical procedures.
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