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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
With the technology—installed in the spring of 2011—each patient is assigned a TSB bracelet containing a built-in RFID tag. The tag's ID number is linked to the corresponding patient's ID via SpheraHospital software residing on a local server, and is then forwarded to La Fe's hospital information system (HIS), provided by Orion Health. Once the fixed beacons installed within La Fe's ceilings receive that tag's signals, the SpheraHospital software determines the tag's location within a specific room or area.

SpheraHospital fixed beacons, installed on the ceiling, track the locations of patients and assets.
The system also includes approximately 82 mobile beacons, each plugged into a USB port of a computer mounted on a nurse's cart. The mobile beacon captures the ID numbers of nearby patient tags and displays each individual's data on the computer screen so that health-care personnel can immediately confirm a patient's identity, and ensure that he or she receives the proper treatment. For example, a health-care provider attempting to prepare a blood transfusion for the incorrect patient (which could be a deadly error) would be able to view the mistake before it could occur, since the cart computer would indicate which patient was within read range, and display that person's specific care requirements.

To date, La Fe has applied SpheraHospital RFID tags to about 1,000 assets, such as wheelchairs, portable ultrasound machines, defibrillators and portable X-ray equipment. When employees require a piece of equipment, they can simply access the server and use the SpheraHospital software to identify the location of the closest item being sought. This reduces the amount of time that workers would otherwise spend walking hallways and throughout rooms seeking equipment to service patients.

"Basically, the ROI, at the beginning, is more easy to understand in terms of location of assets," Raro states. "With the system, we could locate faster any device needed, and also we could avoid losses." These losses result from items being removed from the hospital due to theft, or from being misplaced or hoarded, thus forcing the facility to order a replacement. Although the solution could not actually prevent a theft, she notes, it could indicate when such a crime occurred, along with where that asset was last seen, thereby helping the hospital to identify any staff members who could be held responsible. "Another aspect [related to ROI]," Raro adds, "is the clinical safety in many processes—avoiding possible adverse events regarding patient identification."

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