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Hospital Builds Intelligence One RTLS Step at a Time

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland has deployed a real-time location system that tracks the locations of staff members, patients and assets, while wayfinding will be the latest option to help visitors and patients locate their desired destination.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 09, 2019

St. Joseph Mercy Oakland (SJMO), a member hospital of Trinity Health, knew it wanted to improve the patient and staff experience with technology-based systems, but it sought to do so in a proactive way. That meant talking to patients and employees about what they would want to see at the hospital, and then determining how technology might enable the requested features.

Currently, the 443-bed hospital utilizes what it calls an Intelligent Care System that includes real-time location system (RTLS) functionality throughout its facility. The backbone for the real-time location data is CenTrak's Second-Generation Infrared (Gen2IR) technology, consisting of tags and monitors.

The process, which started around 2012, has led to an RTLS-based solution that provides patients with a better understanding of who is treating them, and also helps staff members know when they are needed, according to Robert Jones, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland's senior director of IT. In addition, the system manages hand-hygiene compliance and monitors patient flow throughout the hospital, in order to improve health, safety and efficiency.

Technology implementation began when SJMO was building a new eight-story tower, Jones says. "We wanted to really make it the kind of facility where our patients and individuals working there could feel at home," he states. At that time, the hospital considered being innovative with the technology it deployed. "We started to look at what we could do with our nurse-call and telemetry systems that [would be] different than what others were doing," he recalls. A year later, the hospital deployed the RTLS solution to capture location data enabling multiple Intelligent Care System features.

The hospital first provided employees with CenTrak's IT-744E staff badges. Each badge is encoded with a unique ID number linked in SJMO's software to a particular worker and his or her credentials. The hospital installed 3,869 battery-powered Gen2IR monitors around the facility, which transmit a Gen2IR signal that is captured by the badges. The badges, in turn, forward that data, along with their own ID, to receivers via a 900 MHz RFID signal. In that way, the hospital can identify the badges' locations as personnel move from one room to another.

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