VA Tracks Asset Location and Trends Analysis with BLE Solution

Published: September 3, 2023

Since the VA hospitals have deployed a BLE and IR hybrid solution from they have reportedly improved patient satisfaction with efficiency related to asset management.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is tracking its assets in seven of its Florida hospitals with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)- and IR-based solution. The offering – provided by real-time locating system (RTLS) technology company – identifies the location of each piece of high-value and mobile equipment, as well as its status, such as being with a patient or due for cleaning.

With the technology, first launched in 2021, the VA indicates that it has improved patient experience, as well as the efficiency of its operations in the seven hospitals, at a relatively low cost. offers a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) and indoor IoT solution that leverages open source BLE. This enables its tags and labels to inter-operate with any branded beacons to provide location data within about three meters. Its cloud-based software manages data for real-time alerting, analysis, and customizable reporting.


The VA operates the largest integrated healthcare network in the United States with 1,255 medical facilities serving 9 million enrolled veterans annually.

The hospitals were seeking a way to track their IV pumps as well as other mobile, high value assets. The goal was to ensure they had the necessary equipment, on-hand and available, and did not purchase more assets than needed for redundancy.

Typically, BioMed engineers benefit the most from RTLS data about assets, says Asher, because they are responsible for the thousands of assets that may be spread across a facility. They are often searching for equipment that needs maintenance, which takes time, and can lead to delays in servicing.

Taking Advantage of the Existing BLE Network

To improve operations by making assets easier to manage and locate by BioMed or other personnel, the VA had previously installed an active Wi-Fi solution that didn’t work as expected, Greg Merrill, Program Analyst, VA, said in a webinar recently.  The system experienced a phenomena in which RF transmissions hopped between tags, making it hard to identify the zone in which the tag was located. They were not adjustable either, Merrill said, when it came to power level or how often tags beaconed.

More recently, the hospitals upgraded their communications network with hybrid access points that manage both BLE and Wi-Fi connectivity. So the VA took a new approach: leverage the existing network for RTLS data using BLE. provided the solution that employed the hospitals’ existing BLE infrastructure, Kapil Asher,’s Healthcare Practice Lead, says.

The VA then worked with to develop a solution that would manage the location, to room level, of each asset, and then provide the BioMed department, and others, with data needed to ensure the equipment was cleaned and stocked in the appropriate location. The VA wanted zone level accuracy according to rooms, rather than watching a blue dot move around the facility, the VA reported.

Real-Time Tracking at the Room Level

The solution resides in the cloud, and provides the asset tags as well as IR devices and BLE beacons. The data is managed without requiring involvement from the IT department, with the exception of whitelisting ports on the firewall.

Assets each have a BLE and IR tag that transmits its unique ID, which is linked to details about the asset in the software. As it transmits, the beacons capture that data and forward it to the software, where it can then be located according to the beacon responding. also installed IR devices in key areas to provide room-level accuracy of tags in key locations. If the tag is within range of the IR transmitter, the system reinforces the location within the room it is in. However, the technology can locate a tag typically within 90 to 95 percent room level accuracy even without the IR transmission, Asher says.

Users access the system dashboard to gain a real time view into where the assets are, when they need to be maintained or simply moved to the appropriate location. They can view, for instance, when a piece of equipment has been left in a specific location, when it is in the cleaning or maintenance process, and when it is stocked for re-use.


That data not only saves personnel time in searching for equipment, says Asher, it also helps ensure the equipment is being maintained according to required schedules to meet the requirements of the Joint Commission. “So they’re saving labor and ensuring that they stay in compliance,” he says.

The tags also come with a button that can be pressed by hospital staff if a piece of equipment requires maintenance. For example, if a nurse finds a problem with a pump, he or she would press the button on the tag. The tag would then transmit the updated status, linked to its location, so that BioMed workers could receive an alert by e-mail or text or through their work order management system. In this way, says Asher, “the nurse does not have to make a phone call or fill out a form – he or she can simply press a button and it’ll be taken care of.”

Hospital management can use a feature in the application known as System Administrator to create business policies specific to locations or actions, and a Device Management feature informs users of the health of every device including its battery level.

The system can also manage the location and status of workers if they wear a beacon tag, which also comes furnished with a button that can be pressed to indicate a duress emergency in the case of a healthcare worker being threatened. Typically, employees wear the badge with a lanyard, or they clip it on their collars or belts. also makes BLE-enabled wristbands that can be worn by patients to ensure they can be located quickly and don’t stray from authorized areas of the hospital.

The system also comes with a Hand Hygiene application to help ensure nurses are sanitizing their hands appropriately. For example, the software provides them with five opportunities (in the form of five contacts with patients) where they must wash or sanitize their hands. The solution can then create a compliance report for every staff member, based on how often and when they use the soap or sanitizer dispenser.’s solution offers analytics and historical data about staff movement to help management identify inefficiencies. If there is frequent travel by staff members between certain locations, which is time-consuming, management can be alerted to an inefficiency and can develop a solution to eliminate the travel.

The software also leverages AI and ChatGPT to enable users to ask specific questions about their equipment or operations. “They don’t have to worry about searching and creating filters for the search, you can just ask the question, and the software does the interpretation,” says Asher. For example, a user could ask, “What was the average time a pump was utilized in the last month?”

The VA is using some of these features but not all, Asher says. The technology was deployed in the seven VA hospitals in 2021, and today is tracking about 1,500 to 2,000 assets at each site, including wheelchairs, movable patient beds, ventilators, pumps, and even vacuum cleaners for the cleaning staff.  The system could be expanded in the future, although a specific timeline has not been determined.

Key Takeaways:

  • The VA has improved hospital asset use efficiency with RTLS data from a hybrid solution from
  • The BLE- and IR-based system provided a lower cost and more accurate solution than a previous active RFID network.