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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.
By Claire Swedberg
Intelligent InSites' temperature-monitoring application will gather data from temperature and humidity sensor tags via TempSys' CheckPoint solution. It will then automatically and remotely monitor conditions within coolers, and track the food, pharmaceuticals and supplies and equipment being stored in them.

The deployment, Ruark says, is unique, given the variety of systems providing data to a single customer. "It's a bit unusual to have so many active RTLS technologies at once," he states, "but it does demonstrate the value of having open and flexible RTLS software." RTLS data is received and processed by the Intelligent InSites software, and access to the applications and information is then made available to all users across the VISN, based on their particular password privileges. If authorized, staff members can view not only in which department an item they seek is located, but also in which hospital. What's more, the software enables the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to perform a variety of analyses to solve problems related to missing equipment, optimal inventory levels, broken items, or cleaning and sterilization records.

During a trial of the solution at an Indianapolis hospital, McDonald witnessed several use cases that he had not initially expected. For example, he says, when a tagged bed was reported broken, the hospital's biomedical engineering department was able to track where that bed had been—not only at the time that it was reported broken, but from that point forward. Thus, the hospital could determine whether the bed had been taken to be repaired and returned to service. Without the system, McDonald says, staff members would have had to walk through the facility's rooms until finding the appropriate bed, and then try to ascertain whether it had been repaired.

VISN 11 expects that with the full rollout of its enterprise-wide RTLS solution, efficiency based on knowing the location and status of equipment will increase, as will hospitals' ability to ensure that inventory is maintained at appropriate levels.

Similar RTLS rollouts are expected to take place at other Veterans Integrated Service Networks sites. With a national RTLS rollout in mind, the VA officially announced, in June 2012, that HP Enterprise Services has been awarded a $550 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract for an RTLS solution (see RFID News Roundup: Veterans Affairs Awards $543 Million RTLS Contract to HP to Cover All VA Hospitals, Clinics). The IDIQ contract was built off best practices and lessons learned based on what VISN 11 has already completed, according to a VHA official, who adds that the national contract is separate and unrelated to that of VISN 11.

USER COMMENTS

Mike Maurer 2012-11-05 03:46:30 PM
RTLS Metrics Couple of quick questions related to tracking high value (e.g. larger) medical assets such as infusion pumps: 1) What is the VA requiring with regard to location accuracy utilizing the Wi-Fi Radio Frequency locator technology? 2) What is the average accuracy attained? 3) Why are there no life-safety solutions (e.g. At-Risk Patient and/or Staff Duress)? 4) Are you aware that Pittsburgh VA has an RTLS (non Wi-Fi) System covering over 6 Million Square Feet and using low frequency RF locates tags to within 3-5 meters (life-safety RTLS)? We'd be interested in pushing our life-safety RTLS data to your front-end. Do you have an SDK available?
Mike Maurer 2012-11-27 12:09:47 PM
Technologies for evalution excluded the best from competing I'd like to bring some clarity to the misleading premise that the VA spent 5 years evaluating the 'Proper' technologies: The fact of the matter is that the VA National Committee, at the VA RTLS National Conference, excluded non Wi-Fi technologies from competing. Case in point was the exclusion of Tyco/SecurTRAK (formerly Elpas) RTLS technology which is based upon low frequency 433Mhz for locating tags using RF, IR for sub-bed level tracking, LFRF for portals & floor logic, and ProxHID for HID cards (all on the same infrastructure). More specifically, their RTLS, using SecurTRAK software, has been operating in the VA since 2002 with a reliability of 99.98% up-time, accuracy of 2' using IR, 3-5 meters using RF through walls, millisecond portal control using LFRF (covering 6+ Million SF). To clarify, even though it's accuracy and reliability has been proven "in the VA" for 10+ years, it was excluded from competing because their 'superior' RF locator component does not use Wi-Fi to triangulate(?). Engineering studies the world over have proven beyond the shadow of doubt that lower frequency solutions are much better at triangulating RFID tags through the various materials of construction as found in VA Hospitals and related facilities - and also for tracking outdoors. The main reason provided for limiting the RTLS competing technologies solely to Wi-Fi, "...multiple solutions can be dove-tailed on the same infrastructure..." Tyco's four (4) RTLS technologies has been operating on the same infrastructure since 1996 (as an aside: they also offer Wi-Fi communication capability but advise using hard-wired communications where security is paramount - especially for life-safety). The Wi-Fi triangulation requirement will not provide the accuracy and reliability critical to life-safety solutions (e.g. staff duress, at-risk patient tracking, etc.). Accordingly, life-safety is casually mentioned as a possible 'future' in the National contract and the RTLS Moratorium excludes VA facilities from purchasing RTLS for life-safety. Catch-22: The only future solutions must include Wi-Fi triangulation as a base locator component before 'augmenting' with IR and/or other technologies. What purpose does it serve to limit the RTLS playing field to Wi-Fi when technologies specifically developed for RTLS have existed many years prior? How will the VA reap the benefit of Intelligent Insight's excellent interface if the actual tag locations do not accurately reflect the locations reported by the underlying RTLS? My prior Navy experience connotes: It is far less costly to change the course of a carrier group than to let it collide with an iceberg. As a Veteran owner of a small business that has focused on delivering quality solutions to the government and the VA for 25+ years, it's especially disheartening to have spent much of my life developing the best possible solutions for fellow veterans and then not having the opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Hence, 'Proper' in the above context is meaningless.

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