By: Gary Dunn Executive Vice President, Strategic Accounts/Business Development
In many of today’s technology-rich healthcare facilities, Real Time Locating System (RTLS), are becoming common place. They can be found in a wide array of healthcare facilities regardless of sizes and are used to provide many functions to improve workflow, safety and overall efficiencies. However, most hospitals that I have encountered that have deployed an RTLS rarely use it for more than one function. I have even seen multiple RTLS platforms deployed within a single facility with each platform performing a different function. A key to maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of an RTLS begins with selecting the right infrastructure.
Most often a RTLS is acquired in a healthcare facility to address a specific need like staff locating, workflow automation, patient and staff safety, patient and asset tracking, hand-hygiene compliance or environmental and temperature monitoring. Many of these solutions are vendor-driven solutions that address specific singular needs and in such the vendor designs the infrastructure to accomplish that single functionality. But a deeper dive would reveal that with a slightly broader approach a RTLS network can be designed to support many functions and create value now to be leveraged in the future. With most integrated systems one of the largest upfront cost is in the labor to install the hardware required to support the application. A slightly adjusted investment in the RTLS infrastructure in the beginning can create great savings in the future.
Let me offer the following example. Let’s say today, as a healthcare provider, your pressing need is to improve staff workflow or infection control and you’re considering automation as a solution. But there exists the possibility that in the future you may want to consider the benefits of automating asset tracking or nurse call system integrations. Let’s go one level higher; what if facilities management in the same facility is considering an environmental and temperature monitoring need or are looking to create a safer work environment by providing staff with a wireless duress functionality? What if the maternity unit is ready to implement an infant protection system? With a better understanding of the many benefits of RTLS, the correctly designed infrastructure could support all of these needs, and more.
When we are asked to explore any of the various RTLS solutions with a healthcare client, we always start with a broad overview of the possible needs that other stake holders within the facility might have. It’s this “big picture” approach in which the bottom line ROI can improve. Helping clients explore the best RTLS infrastructure to meet their current and future needs can create long-term savings that in turn can be leveraged to provide more functionality.
Understanding the need for location accuracy and data speed can assist a client’s current and future needs. Considering the best overall clinical-grade RTLS can involve deploying an infrastructure of multiple technologies now to save on redundant expenses in the future. These could include 900 MHz, Wi-Fi, infrared, low frequency RF and Bluetooth low energy (BLE). All of these technologies offer benefits in a RTLS design and, if implemented properly, could support many applications from a single infrastructure. Like a well design building, the properly design RTLS infrastructure becomes the foundation for a solid and dependable platform that will save you cost as you expand or add on to the system in the future.