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Group Health Reinvents Patient Care With RTLS

The health-care provider's new clinic, equipped with a CenTrak hybrid IR and active RFID system and Intelligent Insites software platform, eliminates the need for waiting rooms, lab visits and trips to the pharmacy.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 22, 2012The Seattle-based Group Health Cooperative has created what the health-care company calls the medical center of the future, with an RFID solution supplied by real-time location system (RTLS) software provider Intelligent Insites. The solution—which employs hybrid infrared (IR) and active RFID technology from CenTrak—is being installed at the newly constructed medical center in Puyallup, Wash., and is designed to reduce patient waiting times during clinic visits, by bringing services to a patient's care room, as well as providing clinic staff members with real-time visibility into the locations and status of patients, care providers and equipment.

Group Health serves more than 625,000 members and operates 25 medical facilities in Washington State. The Puyallup Medical Center, slated to open in December 2012, is built to serve approximately 30,000 patients. The RTLS technology is part of Group Health's Integrated Care and Facility Design (ICFD), designed to serve patients more efficiently, says Donnell Coomes, the senior project director of Group Health's Enterprise Project Management Office.

Donnell Coomes
According to Group Health, the technology is being utilized to transform the patient experience. For example, the waiting room has been nearly eliminated, since patients will proceed directly to a care room instead of waiting within a public area. Rather than a patient having to visit a laboratory to have blood drawn, or to receive a shot, a mobile lab can serve the patient within the care room when needed. In the future, the company notes, the clinic intends to enable a patient to receive visits in the same care room from a pharmacist (for medication consultations), as well as from the business office (to make a copayment), prior to completing his or her appointment.

All of these features are enabled with CenTrak's Gen2IR hybrid IR and active RFID badges worn by patients and employees, IR monitors installed within the rooms, and RFID readers that receive transmissions from the badges. The collected data is then managed by Intelligent Insites' software.

The clinic care area consists of "pods," or care rooms, each with two entrances: one for patients and another for the staff. Upon first arriving, a patient can proceed to the front desk, where a worker will check in that individual on his or her electronic medical record (maintained in EPIC software). The employee will also use the Intelligent Insights software, residing on the clinic's back-end system, to assess room availability for that patient's physician. The patient is then assigned an available care room. The worker can use a bar-code scanner to scan a bar code on the back of the badge with an RTLS transponder, thereby linking the patient with that particular badge. That same staff member also informs the patient of his or her room number, after which the patient may proceed directly to that care room.

Within each care room, a battery-operated CenTrak IR monitor transmits infrared light. Gen2IR will not pass through walls, and does not suffer from traditional infrared line-of-sight limitations. Therefore, when a tag reads a room number, there are no errors. When a patient wearing a badge enters the room, the badge detects the monitor's IR signal and transmits that signal's unique identifier, along with its own unique ID number, via a 900 MHz RFID transmission. An RFID interrogator within the vicinity then receives that transmission and forwards it to the Intelligent InSites software, via a wired connection.

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