REAL-TIME LOCATION SYSTEMS (RTLS)
The use of real-time location systems, or RTLS, in healthcare is on the rise. But there is still a lot of misconception about what the technology does, and how it can help healthcare professionals improve their patient care. We will help shed some light on some of the great benefits of RTLS so your facility can make the best use of these systems.
What is RTLS?
Real-time location systems are wireless tracking systems used to locate equipment, patients, and staff members in real-time. An RTLS consists of specialized fixed receivers positioned throughout the building that receive wireless signals from ID badges, worn by patients and caregivers, or tags attached to equipment and medical devices, to accurately identify where the tagged assets are located within a building. Each tag has its own unique identification code, or signal, that the fixed receivers can read and precisely locate. Hospital staff can log onto the system from any workstation or mobile device and quickly identify where specific patients or equipment are located.
But the real value of RTLS technology is not in its ability to track, but about equipping nurses and caregivers with real-time data that improves the patient experience.
RTLS and Workflow
Real-time systems have the ability to “tag” a complex workflow environment that will optimize staff and patient flow during peak demand times in a facility. When both patients and physicians are wearing ID badges, it allows the staff to completely manage the care delivery process by knowing who is available, what equipment is in use, where the patient is and who has seen them last. It reduces the lag in a long chain of communication, and streamlines the patient care process.
RTLS and Asset Tracking
In addition to managing the workflow of staff, RTLS is equally effective and directing the effective use of facility equipment. Oftentimes hospitals purchase up to three times the amount of equipment and medical devices they actually need because it is difficult to track them as they move from room to room. By tagging widely-used hospital equipment through the real-time location system, physicians can quickly and accurately locate where it is, who is using it, and in what part of the delivery process it is in. That means RTLS can identify whether or not the assets have gone through the proper decontamination process and is ready for use again. These alerts can be integrated and ensure that medical devices and safely and efficiently used throughout the facility.
RTLS and PHI
Another very innovative use of RTLS technology is protecting personal health information, or PHI. Tags can be applied to devices that contain secure patient information like computers or tablets, and program the system to alert if they are removed from a certain area or even auto-log out at designated times. It is imperative that hospitals maintain the HIPAA and protect PHI, and RTLS solutions are allowing hospital staff to closely monitor the dissemination of these records.
Integrating real-time location systems is certainly an investment for any healthcare facility. But an overwhelming amount of adopters are reporting a great ROI and citing operational efficiency gains. From reduction of unnecessary asset purchases, to improvements in HCHAPS scores and patient satisfaction, there numerous ways to effective implement a successful RTLS solution and strengthen your healthcare infrastructure.