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Memorial Hospital Miramar Builds Benefits Onto Its RTLS

The Florida facility deployed an RFID-IR real-time locating system from Versus Technology to improve patient care. Now it also employs the solution to manage room turnover, track and monitor medical equipment, and automate workflow processes.
By Bob Violino
Mar 15, 2010—When Memorial Hospital Miramar, in Miramar, Fla., opened its doors in 2005, its goal was to provide high-quality health care, efficiently and cost-effectively. To that end, the full-service acute-care hospital, part of the Memorial Healthcare System that has served south Florida's residents for more than 50 years, was designed as a virtually paperless hospital, with digital systems to support the eventual move toward electronic medical records. An RFID-based real-time locating system (RTLS) was a fundamental part of that plan, says Dennis Mikes, the 'facility's director of environmental services.

Among the administrative challenges of operating a large hospital are efficiently tracking the comings and goings of patients, and freeing up health-care employees from mundane tasks so they can focus on treating patients. The RTLS enables hospital personnel to track the locations of patients throughout the facility, as well as manage patient flow. Provided by Versus Technology, the system—known as VISion—combines RFID and infrared (IR) technology to provide the real-time location of patients.

Memorial Hospital Miramar deployed an RFID-IR real-time locating system to improve patient care.

Hospital officials soon discovered even greater value in the system: its ability to automate a number of other workflow processes, so the institution could improve the accuracy of its information, while also providing better services to its patients. The same RTLS network is now being employed not only for patient tracking, but also to manage room turnover, dispense medications more effectively, track a variety of mobile assets and perform other functions.

How Patient Tracking Works
As soon as a patient arrives at the emergency room or through admitting, he or she is provided with a Versus badge, which can be clipped to clothing, suspended from a lanyard or attached to a hospital band. The badge emits IR and RFID signals that are captured by ceiling-mounted IR and RF sensors. That individual's location can then be tracked virtually anywhere within the facility—from the ER waiting area to triage and treatment, or from admitting to a patient floor to discharge. If a patient moves, his or her location is automatically updated in the system in real time.

The infrared portion provides the level of granularity needed to precisely locate people, according to Versus, even down to their hospital bed. Unlike RF waves, infrared light does not penetrate walls or ceilings, so a badge's signal stays within a room; this provides definitive location information that can be focused to within 12 inches, assuming an 8-foot ceiling. The RF signal identifies a larger zonal area. If a badge is moved to an area lacking an IR sensor, the RF signal will notify the system that the badge is still functioning. RF signals are also used to send messages to the system—for example, when a room has been cleaned, a housekeeper can push the Room Ready button.

The sensors convey the IR and RF signals to collectors that convert the location-identifying electrical signals indicating where the badge was "picked up" by network-ready "information packets." The location data is then delivered to a concentrator that translates that information to a TCP/IP message that can be easily understood by computer software.
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