Let’s Understand Real-Time Location Systems in Healthcare
Healthcare systems always struggle with several issues. More often than not, these issues are related to the facility, quality of the care, satisfaction of the staff, management of workflow inefficiencies, et. All these challenges can be overcome to a significant extent with RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) integration into the healthcare processes.
One of the main uses of RTLS is to offer real-time tracking and management of medical equipment, supplies, staff, and patients in every possible environment. In simple terms, it can be called an “indoor GPS”. Integrated with various healthcare solutions, it can enhance the hospital workflow, improve clinical quality, reduce care costs, and thereby increase patient satisfaction.
Some of the components that RTLS solution include, but are not limited to, Wi-Fi, Infrared, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), tags and badges, hardware sensors, servers, middleware, end-user software, etc.
Usually, it includes the use of location-based sensors. These are attached to assets within the healthcare system like equipment, staff members or patients. The system uses unique IDs to locate these tags for offering real-time information about the positioning of the assets in the facility. This helps address several needs of the healthcare center such as:
- Accurate data collection and access
- High-quality patient care
- Infection control
- Equipment tracking
- Inventory Management
- Compliance Reporting
- Cost control
- Staff Shortages
A dependable RTLS can drastically alter the everyday operations of healthcare systems. Let’s look at the following pointers to know how:
Better Care Coordination
RTLS helps in reducing the administrative burden of the staff. For example, without having to do too much data entry, the registration staff can quickly identify which rooms are available, which clinicians can be used to offer immediate care to the patients and what can be used to reduce the patient’s stay in waiting rooms. Similarly, it can help in keeping the friends and families of the patients in the loop about the patients’ treatment and condition.
The Northwest Michigan Surgery Center in Traverse City uses RTLS solution to allow the friends and families of patients to keep a track when the patient is undergoing a procedure in the outpatient surgery center.
Enhanced Traffic Control
RTLS can also prove to be immensely useful to keep track of both patients and staff. It helps in real-time tracking of asset movement. This and more such information can be used to control traffic in various crowded areas, especially the ER or Surgery. For instance, healthcare facilities can use RTLS to study traffic patterns and find out solutions that can help patients cut down excess travel or find alternate routes for them to get them to ER or surgery without wasting time.
Efficient Privacy and Security
At Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, nurses dealing with combative patients can signal a Code Gray simply by tapping their RTLS-enabled badge, which locates them for security. Similarly, the technology can be used to keep track of babies in NICUs and Labor and Delivery rooms. This can prevent newborns from being matched with the wrong parents and thwart any other security threats. Even senior patients with degenerative diseases can be tracked easily.
Effective Asset Management
Inventory management is one of the mainstays of healthcare facilities. It becomes more effective with RTLS. For instance, hospitals can place tags on various medical equipment to prevent them from being stolen. Similarly, they can track and monitor devices for wear and tear to manage the repair or replacement appropriately. When it comes to inventory, RFID tags can help track emergency medications in stock and give a heads-up on their expiry dates.
Satisfied Patients and Staff
Patients can use RTLS to locate nurses and other healthcare professionals. They can also use it for better housekeeping and meal delivery, or any other care that they need. As for the staff, it helps them by reducing the time needed to keep a stock of the inventory, improve their productivity by improving the workflows and equip them with the data needed to provide better care to their patients.
Ensuring Successful RTLS Implementation
Healthcare institutions looking to enhance their operations, increase staff productivity, and drive down costs are looking to implement RTLS. It is important for them to note that it is not only about asset tracking – it is about using the data gathered through asset tracking to drive up operational efficiency and patient satisfaction.
To ensure a successful implementation, we typically recommend the following
- Define clear goals and objectives and monitor those on an ongoing basis – after the adoption of RTLS, you should see positive outcomes in terms of enhanced asset utilization, treatment to more patients, reduction in the average duration of door to admission and staff time optimization as they need to spend less time in locating patients.
- Keep the end users in the loop – after all, they are the ones using the system and can provide useful feedback.
- Carefully decide what all to tag and what not to tag – keep your business goals in mind and define the assets based on that
RTLS – Everything Healthcare Systems Ever Needed
In the past decade, RTLS solutions have come a long way and impacted medical care like never before. With these points, it is a given that integrating it in their smart hospital agenda is the need of the hour for healthcare facilities.
How are you preparing yourself for the change?