The RTLS Revolution in Healthcare

Dustin Hertel, Senior Healthcare Account Executive

Technology in the healthcare space is growing rapidly, and ESCO Communications is here to help your facility manage that growth. RTLS, or Real-Time Locating Systems, are perhaps the most exciting and impactful portion of that technology. Today, a properly utilized RTLS system can drive staff efficiency, improve patient care, create a more safe and automated clinical environment, and ultimately improve HCAHPS scores. With the ability to track staff, assets (equipment), and even patients, you can imagine how this type of system could be utilized to improve workflows, both clinical and operational, throughout the hospital or even throughout an entire network of hospitals and facilities. With this potential impact, many experts are suggesting that the RTLS “revolution” in healthcare is just around the corner and could be a $163 billion healthcare market by 2020 (according to research firm MarketsandMarkets Inc.).

When we implement a system, it all starts with the Centrak hardware and infrastructure. Once that “backbone” is in place, there are multiple applications (both hardware and software) that can be layered onto the system to add value to your investment and generate a strong ROI.  The hardware component consists of stars, monitors, virtual walls, server(s), and badges/tags – the monitors fill the defined room/space with infrared (IR) tracking, the badges/tags collect the IR and report location back, and the servers collect and store all of the location data being transmitted by the devices through the network.

Once the hardware and network connectivity are in place, a software component is implemented to sort the appropriate data points in a way that makes them actionable and/or impactful for improving workflow. Those data points may be used to run reports on nurse call response time to patients, nurse rounding compliance, or even interactions between staff and a patient with an infectious disease. In terms of asset tracking, software has the ability to create a map-view of the units in a hospital to show where (down to room level) particular equipment is located in real-time. This could allow for bio-med, clinical engineering, or EVS to locate specific equipment they are interested in without walking the halls to search for it. This also allows supply chain the visibility and data to track the quantity of equipment to ensure that they keep a consistent volume (par level) on hand without ordering excess. Prior to RTLS, an excess of equipment was more likely to be ordered based on units that may have been perceived to be lost.

With Hill-Rom Navicare Nurse Call software, and the use of certain Hill-Rom smart beds, RTLS technology can even assist in automating the clinical environment by setting and suppressing bed exit alarms based on a staff member’s presence, or lack thereof, in the room. Forgetting to set a bed exit alarm after a patient has exited or returned back to the bed plays a large role in many falls that take place within a hospital. With the proper combination of technology and integrations (outlined above), the bed exit can be set automatically as the staff exits the room.  This essentially eliminates the risk of an unarmed bed exit alarm and leaves the caregiver with the peace of mind that even if they forget, the system will help keep their patient safe.

Hill-Rom also has the equipment and software to leverage RTLS to monitor hand hygiene compliance. Using existing monitoring and staff badge hardware, along with special monitors installed on/within the hand washing dispensers, this software can not only track hand washing events, but can also be set to remind staff of missed hand washing opportunities if they walk by the dispenser. Reports can also be run from this data so that compliance can be monitored at an individual, unit, floor, or facility level based on your specific preference.

On an enterprise level that has the appropriate Centrak hardware and RTLS software connected via the network server, we have the capability of tracking a piece of equipment, a patient, or a staff member as the tag leaves one facility and then picks up the location as it enters another facility within the network. These events are time stamped and can be tracked down to room level with the right saturation of RTLS equipment. This opens the door for increased operational efficiencies by providing visibility to the sharing of assets and more accurate allocation of resources in general. This technology is available now and we are excited to see how it grows in the coming years. The ESCO Communications team has vast experience with these systems and we’re ready to help you join the RTLS revolution!

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