PointRF Adds Moisture-Sensing Diapers and Two-Way Tags to Its RFID Lineup

By Claire Swedberg

The new products are part of the NoWander solution, which enables a nursing facility to know where its patients are and if they have fallen, as well as analyze patient activity.

For the past year, PointRF Solutions has been offering technology for use at long-term care facilities, aimed at improving safety, security and business intelligence for patient care, while also allowing patients freedom of movement. For example, the company's NoWander tracking solution enables a nursing facility to know where its patients are—not only for real-time security, but also for analytics to evaluate each person's health, based on his or her movement behavior. PointRF's SafeTSense bed pads and floor mats with built-in RFID tags and sensors transmit data regarding when a patient is in bed or seated in a wheelchair, or if that individual has fallen.

The latest offering—the SafeTSense Variable Wetness Sensing Diaper system—is a module within the NoWander solution that enables nursing facilities to know when a patient's diaper needs to be changed. This solution is presently being tested by several nursing facilities, according to Matthew Riccoboni, PointRF's marketing VP.

In addition, the company is releasing a new RFID tag that can store data, as well as transmit and receive information from other tags when the NoWander system is offline—for example, if a patient wearing an RFID wristband leaves a facility for a doctor's visit, or in the event that a building suffers a power outage. The tag can be queried by another RFID tag attached to a tablet device, for instance, or via an RFID tag built into another patient's wristband or a physician's badge. In all cases, the hardware is manufactured by PointRF, which also supplies an end user with its Dynamic Positioning System software that includes an enterprise dashboard and a reporting engine, which can also be integrated with a user's existing management software.

The company's focus, says Richard Bauer, PointRF's president and CEO, is on using RFID-based intelligence to predict events and prevent incidents, such as injuries or deteriorating health. "Primarily," he says, "we are a business-intelligence company" that takes patient security to another level, "by predicting events before they happen," as well as by preventing future illnesses, adverse conditions or falls, based on identifying behavior that could indicate an impending problem. The company is developing its own technology organically, he says, based on the needs of its end users, which currently comprise approximately 19 long-term care facilities within the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area.

PointRF produces a diaper with an embedded sensor strip that extends from the front to the back of the diaper, and is able to detect the presence of moisture. A battery-powered, active 433 MHz tag, also manufactured by PointRF, is clipped to the diaper's front or back, thereby creating a contact between the sensor strip and the tag. The RFID tag's ID number is inputted into the system's software, where it is linked to the individual patient or resident who will be wearing the tag. If the sensor detects moisture, that change in status is received by the tag, which transmits the sensor's detection to RFID readers installed in the vicinity, using a proprietary air-interface protocol. The interrogators then forward that data to the back-end system, where software determines whose diaper requires changing, and displays that information for workers or issues an alert via e-mail or text message.

Instead of checking diapers at periodic intervals (as is common practice at such facilities—for example, every four hours), caretakers can now do so only when necessary. This reduces the amount of time wasted on unnecessary changes, PointRF reports, and prevents infections or irritation that can result from a diaper not being changed as soon as a patient urinates or defecates. According to Riccoboni, the diaper technology answers the question, "How do we eliminate the conditions that lead to sores?"

PointRF's bed pads and floor mats detect the pressure of an individual lying or sitting on them, and provide data regarding how long that person has remained on the pad, as well as how often he or she has changed positions. The software can also determine whether the patient's movement habits have changed, which could indicate a potential problem. For example, if the pad detects someone getting out of bed more often at night, employees could follow up with that patient and find out if, for example, he or she has been experiencing stomach pains. The system can also enable the nursing staff to receive real-time alerts—such as if someone falls out of bed and onto a floor mat.

The NoWander Safety and Security Platform enables facility management to monitor the locations of individuals within the care center. The system can issue alerts or lock doors in the event that an individual wanders toward an unauthorized area, such as an exit to a parking lot or street. In this scenario, the system features infrared (IR) location beacons installed at critical doorways that transmit unique identifiers to tags, which then forward that information to RFID readers. The combination of IR and RFID technologies provides greater location granularity, the company reports, including room-level accuracy within patient rooms. At exits and other areas, PointRF also provides low-frequency (LF) 125 kHz exciters that awaken a patient's wristband, causing it to transmit a signal to nearby readers, which then triggers software to issue the appropriate action, such as locking doors. The LF exciters bring the location accuracy to within about a 5-foot radius, the firm notes. The SafeTSense NoWander and sensor pad solutions have been available since early 2012.

Next week, the company is preparing to announce its latest development: a two-way tag that can transmit data, as well as receive information from another tag. The new tag, which will be incorporated in the Patient Smart Bracelet and the Smart Staff Badge, is designed to operate during routine events that prevent it from communicating with a reader —such as a patient temporarily leaving a hospital or care facility in order to receive medical care elsewhere—or during a catastrophic event, such as a storm shutting down power supplies. The tags are expected to be made commercially available later this spring.

Each Patient Smart Bracelet comes with the two-way tag and a small LCD display. Data can be stored directly on the wristband tag, such as a patient's name, date of birth and allergies. The tag beacons to readers within the vicinity, but if the power fails or the wristband enters an area devoid of readers, the tag will store the data and later transmit it upon coming within range of a Smart Staff Badge with an embedded PointRF tag. For example, if a storm occurs and a facility's power goes out, a physician can plug his or her Smart Staff Badge into an iPad, with the NoWander Connect application from PointRF that enables the viewing of RFID data. When the physician visits a patient, the Smart Staff Badge communicates with that patient's tag, and the doctor can then use the app to view the data from the patient's tag on his or her iPad. If authorized, the physician can also utilize the NoWander Connect app on the iPad to prompt the information to be displayed on that patient's wristband screen.