Is There a Way to Track Hospital Equipment Loaned to a Patient Using an RTLS?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsIs There a Way to Track Hospital Equipment Loaned to a Patient Using an RTLS?
RFID Journal Staff asked 9 years ago

Could such a system work similarly to how library books are loaned, so that a medical facility would know who had what equipment, and where it was located?

—Name withheld


Real-time location system (RTLS) technology covers a limited area. You could set up a system to cover an entire hospital, but you would not be able to track anything at a person’s home.

It might be feasible to provide patients with RTLS transponders that they would then wear around their neck while at the hospital. You could use software to associate a badge with an asset tag. This would be imperfect, though, since multiple patients might leave the facility at the same time, while only one might have a tagged wheelchair, for example. In such a scenario, the system would have no way of knowing which exiting patient had the wheelchair.

It might also be possible to issue access-control cards and keep doors locked when assets are detected near an exit. Let’s say I have a legitimate reason to leave the hospital with an oxygen pump or wheelchair. As I approached with the asset, the RTLS solution would sense the item near the door and lock it (or trigger an alarm, if the hospital preferred). I would wave my access-control card near a reader and the door would unlock, enabling me to leave with that equipment. If I tried to get out with the tagged oxygen pump but had not been issued a card, then the door would not open (or, depending on the setup, an alarm would sound).

Such a system might not actually be necessary, however. If you have real-time and historical visibility into an asset’s location, it might be clear which particular patient had been using a given wheelchair that had gone missing during his or her stay at the hospital, making it likely that he or she still had it.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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