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Large Spanish Hospital Adopts RFID to Manage Patients, Assets

University Hospital of Valencia (La Fe) is using ZigBee-based RFID tags and readers to help improve the efficiency and quality of patient care, as well as reduce the risk of errors.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 03, 2012Spain's University Hospital of Valencia (La Fe) is employing a real-time locating system (RTLS) to track patients and assets throughout its 260,000-square-meter (2.8 million-square-foot) facility, and to allow staff members to identify patients via mobile carts with built-in RFID readers. The technology was provided by MySphera, a division of the TSB Group. The solution provides the hospital with a view into the locations of both patients and assets, in order to improve the quality of care provided, by making it faster and easier to locate equipment, patients and personnel, as well as safer, since it also helps ensure that every patient receives the proper medication or other care intended for that individual, thereby reducing the risk of errors.

La Fe, one of the nation's largest hospitals, monitors as many as 1,500 patients at any given time using MySphera's RTLS solution, known as SpheraHospital, which features battery-powered RFID tags attached to assets and patient wristbands. Each tag transmits a unique ID number every two seconds via a 2.4 GHz signal. That signal is received by fixed beacons to determine the tag's location, and by mobile beacons connected to computers, which then display information about the patient wearing that tag. According to Serafin Arroyo, MySphera's marketing director, SpheraHospital utilizes ZigBee technology—based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard—that provides a lower-cost option than many other active RTLS solutions, and does not interfere with the hospital's existing wireless transmissions, such as Wi-Fi.

Each of La Fe's patients is assigned a bracelet with a built-in ZigBee-compliant, battery-powered RFID tag.

In selecting the technology, says Pilar Raro, the hospital's research and development strategy director, La Fe sought a method for improving clinical processes and eliminating the opportunity for mistakes—for example, providing the incorrect type of blood transfusion, surgical procedure or medication. La Fe also wanted staff members to have quick access to the tools they required at any given time, particularly in the event of a medical emergency.

When it comes to tracking patients, the system is designed to improve the efficiency of patient care, thus ensuring that hospital management knows the type of care that each patient has received, and thereby what he or she still may require. The hospital intends to improve its patient throughput within areas such as its operating rooms. By tracking a particular patients' location, the system ensures that when an OR is no longer occupied, the staff can be alerted to begin preparing it for the next patient.

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