Brazilian Hospital Improves Care for ICU Patients

By Edson Perin

Santa Casa de Valinhos deployed an Internet of Things solution from Taggen RFID Solutions that facilitates the location of its equipment.


Santa Casa de Valinhos maintains 102 active beds and carries out, on average, 450 surgeries, 800 hospitalizations and 10,000 emergency room visits per month. The hospital reports that it has implemented an Internet of Things (IoT) solution to quickly identify and locate the equipment in its intensive care unit.

The system employs Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons that emit signals to a control center. The initiative is the result of a partnership between Taggen RFID Solutions and Biocam Hospital Equipment.

Edson Manzano, the superintendent of Santa Casa de Valinhos, says the project originated with the need to update inventory, monitor displacements and locate devices. “The real-time tracking system hampers diversions and thefts, makes it easier to locate equipment for patient care, lowers maintenance costs and streamlines asset audits,” Manzano says, adding that the current system replaces controls that previously were performed manually. “We were able to optimize our resources better.” Among the equipment screened are cardiac monitors, infusion pumps and electrocardiograph machines.

The implementation of the IoT project allows the hospital to meet the current norm of annual inventory counts, as well as the maintenance of Brazil’s National Accreditation Organization (ONA) certificate. This certification evaluates the quality of health services, Manzano says, in addition to establishing transparent management with continuous improvements.

With the system, equipment location data is integrated into the Genesis hospital asset-management system for analysis by IBM Watson. “The project involves an RTLS [real-time location system] for real-time location focused on controlling the movement of hospital equipment,” says Mario Prado, Taggen’s CTO.

“Previously, the process required frequent inventory counts,” Prado explains. “Critical equipment to support the life of patients was often delayed. The system currently monitors the location of the equipment in real time.” The solution uses beacons manufactured by Taggen RFID Solutions, which constantly transmit their location via Bluetooth signals, following Google’s Eddystone beacon standards. “The benefits of this technology are the low cost of deployment and the ability to use a customer’s existing IT infrastructure and provide cloud service.”

Taggen’s localization platform consists of three components. A cloud server provides an administrative interface, dashboards, reports and an application programming interface (API). Small reader modules (known as Taggen Gateways) are installed in the rooms to be monitored. “These modules communicate with the central server via a Wi-Fi network or the client’s own wiring,” Prado states. Finally, active tags (called Taggen Beacons) are detected by the readers. The system collects location and telemetry information, such as battery level, ambient temperature and so forth.

The solution was integrated with the company’s management system, which is the front end preferred by users—the technicians who carry out maintenance at the hospital. Readers are installed in hospital beds, and the system identifies the beacons within 100 meters (328 feet). The cloud server has the intelligence to determine each tag’s exact location, even though it is being detected by multiple readers simultaneously.

The Cricket localization system was developed by Biocam, based on Taggen’s RTLS platform, which utilizes readers and Taggen RFID tags. Electronic engineering is the result of a partnership with the CPqD institute, located in Campinas.

According to Prado, the project was carried out in two phases. During the first phase, equipment located in the ICU sector and considered more critical was identified with beacons. “Currently,” he says, “an expansion is underway and 133 more mobile devices are being identified.”

The active tags (beacons) can be reused in the event that a device is replaced. Each tag has a replaceable, long-life battery that reaches a 10-year usage period, according to the manufacturer.

Prado says there were no major challenges for the system’s operation. “The main thing was a small adaptation of the hospital’s Wi-Fi network coverage,” he states. “With the initial deployment success, we want to increase the number of readers to extend the coverage area and the wired network deployment in the equipment.”

The decision to trace equipment with an RFID solution was made by the hospital’s clinical engineering area, which is responsible for asset management. “The system allows the instantaneous localization of any monitored equipment,” Prado says, “as well as generating alarms and statistics regarding each movement.” The technology is integrated with the equipment-management system, making it easier to locate assets for periodic maintenance.

The Cricket localization system is integrated with the Genesis asset-management solution, which has cognitive artificial intelligence technology integrated with the IBM Watson platform, and is able to respond to voice commands by querying the status of the equipment. For example, a user can send a question by voice or text to Genesis by querying where a particular device is located. The system will then respond to that person’s location.

In addition to increased security, Prado notes, the hospital achieved a reduction in operating costs due to the shorter amount of time required to locate idle equipment, as well as a decrease in the costs associated with infrastructure for equipment that should not be moved. “In addition,” he says, “the hospital is using the data to study improvements in its internal logistics processes.”

The Cricket system utilizes middleware that is part of the platform. The central service continuously monitors signals and determines each identified asset’s location. Through the APIs, it can be integrated into any management system, thereby making it possible, among other things, to create online inventory counts. Other applications include monitoring workers in hazardous areas (such as in cold rooms or confined areas), and monitoring vehicles at logistic terminals, as well as forklifts and employees, in industrial areas.

Biocam and Taggen were incubated in 2010 at Unicamp. “Since then,” Prado says, “a partnership relationship was built, and with the launch of the platform in 2017, it began building the solution in partnership.” Biocam was already a supplier of hospital equipment for Santa Casa de Valinhos prior to the project. Prado says he is pleased with the project, adding that the results were positive for both the client (which now has more data to work on process improvements and optimizing call handling) and the integrating company.

The hospital’s goal is to expand the monitoring and location project, with the installation of beacons throughout the hospital’s emergency room and surgical center, along with other technical resources, earlier this year. “IoT technologies, when well applied, are a great support in helping to diagnose patients with greater speed and security,” Manzano says.