Magazine Article | October 23, 2006

RFID: Improving Patient Care With Asset Tracking

Source: Field Technologies Magazine
Integrated Solutions, November 2006

The hospital staff at a large North American hospital experienced problems locating medical devices it needed for emergencies and routine patient care. These problems caused a backlog of inpatient services and an underutilization of employees and physical assets (e.g. equipment).   

The hospital defined a set of requirements for a real-time RFID (radio frequency identification)-based tracking solution across its campus for both employees and equipment. The solution comprises Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags and an asset-positioning engine from inCode Wireless called inControl. It uses RFID to track the location, condition, maintenance, and utilization of equipment and employees. The solution uses a Wi-Fi active tag to leverage the hospital’s existing 802.11b network and decrease the overall TCO (total cost of ownership) of the solution.

In many cases, hospitals already use Wi-Fi networks for other applications, such as mobile device network access, so this type of solution is quick to implement. Using Wi-Fi to provide location (i.e. via access point triangulation) requires an increased density of access points, which can require additional access points to be deployed, even if the hospital already has sufficient coverage for wireless data access. This is determined via a site survey to define positioning accuracy for Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags.

With the inControl solution, staff members can find the immediate location of all other staff members and equipment. The solution improves staff productivity by reducing the time taken to locate critical equipment. It also reduces inventory of the tagged equipment, which provided the cost justification for the solution.

Following the successful deployment of the inControl solution, the hospital demonstrated the following benefits:

  • Improved quality of patient care and staff productivity through asset location and patient tracking capabilities

  • Increased asset value from improved efficiency of overall asset management and control of valuable assets

  • Extended asset value lifetime through more effective preventative maintenance

  • Increased revenue and decreased costs from improving the turnaround time needed to prepare operating rooms

Additionally, the solution used standard wireless LAN access points without the need for proprietary network hardware. It also integrated with other workflow and communication systems (e.g. nurse call system).