Magazine article Health Facilities Management

A Real-Time View of Facility Operations: RTLS Revolutionizes Everything from Patient Flow to Purchasing

Magazine article Health Facilities Management

A Real-Time View of Facility Operations: RTLS Revolutionizes Everything from Patient Flow to Purchasing

Article excerpt

Real-time locating systems (RTLS) have come a long way in the past 10 years and now serve as a valuable tool for improving hospital workflow, safety and security. They even combine big data and analytics to open up other avenues of productivity. However, they still have a way to go when it comes to market penetration in the health care industry.

Within the past decade, RTLS technology has established a foothold in health care facilities with an estimated adoption rate of 15 to 20 percent, but this figure appears to be rapidly accelerating as hospitals see the additional benefits of enterprise locating services, and leveraging RTLS for advanced-use cases well beyond asset tracking, according to Ari Naim, CEO, CenTrak, Newtown, Pa.

"RTLS adoption is growing at a rapid rate and transitioning from a nice-to-have to a must-have," says Arne Oyen, CEO, Sonitor, Stamford, Conn. "Although it is difficult to get exact numbers on actual penetration, it is estimated that approximately 15 percent of U.S. hospitals have deployed RTLS; however, many of these are only departmental deployments, as opposed to enterprisewide, so there is a lot more potential growth."

With technological improvements in speed and accuracy, experts see a shift from using RTLS for simple asset tracking to more advanced applications such as patient locating, workflow automation and hand-hygiene compliance. "With advancements in the clinical-grade locating infrastructure, the industry has realized the true value of using RTLS technology to integrate information into other enterprise systems and to automate operational workflows," Naim says.

"The real advances we see are in what health care systems are doing with RTLS software, data and analytics," says Gary Wittbrodt, director of product management, Versus Technology Inc., Traverse City, Mich. "When looking at the agenda for our recent Versus User Experience, you can see what the most advanced RTLS users are accomplishing with their systems--everything from improving patient flow and capacity in the emergency department to coordinating complex surgical care and breaking down data silos."

More and more, hospitals are interested in advanced-use cases such as staff workflow and patient flow that go beyond just finding things to improving processes, agrees Joel Cook, senior director of health care solutions, Stanley Healthcare, Waltham, Mass. "RTLS data gives visibility to bottlenecks as they are emerging so they can be fixed, while also providing a data set for long-term process improvement," he explains. "The cutting edge here is applications such as predictive scheduling for a clinic or operating room based on historical data."

Another area of growth is patient safety applications such as hand-hygiene monitoring and infant security, where RTLS technology replaces manual approaches. There also is interest in integrating RTLS into information systems to leverage location data in new ways. "For example, integration to nurse call systems enables the analysis of key benchmarks for patient satisfaction," Cook adds.

Advanced-use cases rely on a layer of analytics to transform RTLS data into actionable insight. "Providers want to extract information from RTLS because it provides unique data points--time and location. Our analytics package, MobileView Analytics, provides visual dashboards for patient flow, asset management, environmental monitoring and hand-hygiene compliance monitoring solutions," Cook says.

Advances in technology

Behind increased usage are advances in RTLS technology. Alex Gillan, senior product manager, GE Healthcare, Milwaukee, sees three things:

* RTLS hardware that significantly lowers the cost of the RTLS infrastructure, decreases installation time, and enables easier and quicker expansion and reconfiguration of the infrastructure;

* Moving the application from the hospital to the cloud, enabling access from anywhere and removing the complexity of maintaining an on-site application installation;

* Combining big data and analytics to open up other avenues of productivity. …

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