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What You Need to Know About RFID Patient-Management Solutions

Monitoring patients in real time can improve services and safety, increase operational efficiencies and boost a hospital's reputation.
By Bob Violino
Oct 23, 2015

Hospitals and other health-care facilities faced with too many patients and too few beds, nurses and other resources have turned to RFID-based patient-management real-time location systems (RTLSs). By identifying and tracking patients from the time they arrive at a hospital's admitting department or emergency room, or at a clinic, through their stay and discharge, health-care facilities can improve patient care and safety, decrease patient wait times, and increase operational efficiencies and the bottom line.

Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance, in Fort Worth, for example, deployed a patient-management RTLS from CenTrak, in conjunction with an asset-tracking system, to automate the discharge process and locate patients for friends and family. The Joint Implant Surgeons of Florida, in Fort Myers, boosted efficiencies by implementing a standalone patient-management RTLS from Ekahau to track patients and clinic staff members. It improves appointment scheduling and flow, enabling the clinic to serve patients with shorter wait times.

Illustration: iStockphoto
These solutions can also monitor health-care workers to, for instance, see how long a nurse spends with each patient, identify potential exposure to infectious illnesses and enable a caregiver to call for help. Ekahau's badge tag, for example, has a duress feature that lets a caregiver signal for help if he or she is injured while lifting a patient or a patient becomes violent, says Emily Nardone, director of product marketing. "The alarm not only alerts personnel to a problem but also supplies the location of the incident, which helps reduce response times and, in turn, can save lives," she says.

Sanitag's RTLS platform includes a nurse-call feature that lets patients in need of assistance push a button on their RFID tag. The alert is received at the nurses' desk, says Özgür Ülkü, director of global operations, and since the system knows patient location in real time, the nurses can send help to that precise location.

Enhanced patient safety and security are also key capabilities of these solutions. They can help staff members monitor patients who are at risk of wandering off or losing their way in a hospital. "It's especially important to know the whereabouts of dementia and psychiatric patients," says Ralph Jarmain, managing director SecuriCode, which offers a patient-management RTLS.

Some hospitals use a patient-management RTLS to improve patient-care throughout within the facility—the system may alert nurses or transport staff when a patient is ready to return to his or her room after an X-ray or other test, for instance. It may also alert workers when an operating room or other procedure area is no longer occupied, so they can begin preparing it for the next patient.

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