RTLS - Real-time locating service - represents a critical aspect of orchestrating excellence. In fact, according to the Zebra report titled The Future of Healthcare: 2022 Hospital Vision Study, expanding the use of RTLS for dynamic staff workflows, combined with remote patient monitoring, telehealth and artificial intelligence constitute the transformative technology trends that healthcare facilities around the world must pay attention to.
Although this is something we subscribe to fully, it's worth detailing how RTLS provides value for hospitals, starting with what seems most beneficial to locate: assets.
RTLS and Hospital Asset Tracking
Spend time in any hospital, and you'll immediately be struck by the sheer quantity of expensive items on wheels: wheelchairs, portable ultrasound units, equipment, crash carts, defibrillators, stretchers and more. Tracking their whereabouts is vital, and doing so efficiently, effectively, immediately and without wasting valuable resources, is critical particularly in a frenzied environment. Enter real-time locating services.
According to 5 Reasons Your Hospital Needs Wi-Fi RTLS,
"Just about every piece of valuable equipment in a hospital is mobile or on wheels. A simple remedy to the problem of finding equipment is to have a system that knows the whereabouts of all equipment at all times and anywhere on the campus.
With Wi-Fi RTLS, you can have an asset tracking solution for locating equipment using a Web browser, even when equipment is locked behind closed doors.
Reduce shrinkage, costs of equipment rentals and eliminate staff time spent searching for equipment by making your assets visible at all times."
With RTLS, you can not only track costly hospital assets, reduce the likelihood of theft or misplacement, but also decrease the cost and time associated with taking a professional away from patient-related duties to go on a lengthy asset-chase. As A Primer for RTLS in the Healthcare Industry explains, simply reducing equipment misplacement can yield significant benefits.
"One hospital reduced its rate of lost or stolen devices from over 14% to zero with an RTLS solution."
It's not just equipment that RTLS can track. It's also supplies, pharmaceuticals and - more importantly - patients and staff. And, it's not just tracking, but also about having "a single picture of hospital operations to streamline people and technology management" as Real-Time Location Systems Help Hospitals Track the Chaos states:
"It’s no secret that hospitals are enormous organizations with huge legions of clinicians, staff and other assets — both human and tech related. But keeping track of these assets can be a monumental task, and one that, even when managed well, doesn’t offer complete visibility into the day-to-day frenzy of hospital operations.
As patients and hospital staff alike begin to expect a more streamlined experience, real-time location systems can help offer that visibility that managers and others need to streamline hospital processes and properly allocate resources."
9 Other Significant Benefits Associated with RTLS in Hospitals
1. Tracking Human Hospital Assets
Tracking equipment, though, is incomplete without also tracking the people who make meaning for the equipment: those benefiting from them - aka patients - and those using them - aka hospital personnel. So if equipment can have tags, then people can, too, or even wear badges to enable tracking.
Imagine the benefits of have the right people - patients, doctors, nurses, housekeeping, security, etc. - in the right place at the right time.
2. Better Quality and Speed of Care
The next logical benefit relates to the quality of care as Top 6 Reasons Hospitals Should Deploy RTLS details:
"The ability to locate patients, nurses, physicians and equipment quickly and accurately within a department or enterprise enables clinicians to deliver care on a timely basis and spend more time with patients.
Nurses typically spend about an hour of every shift searching for missing equipment, personnel or the actual patient, delaying care and scheduled procedures. This contributes to delays in 30 percent of all scheduled surgeries. Being able to quickly identify any tagged equipment, staff or patients anywhere within a facility means on-time procedures and nurses can focus on patient care."
3. Improved Patient Workflows
The benefits to patients are significant when they can receive better and more timely care, without the aggravation of unnecessary wait times and with more insight into the overall experience starting with when and how they check into the hospital.
The benefits accrue in the Emergency Department as well as the O.R..
In the Operating Room
A Primer for RTLS in the Healthcare Industry describes the following benefit associated with minimizing wait times:
"RTLS allows care teams to track patient traffic and efficiently send patients to different parts of the facilities to get the correct care. One example of a hospital using RTLS to automate patient flow was able to increase utilization of the facilities operating rooms by 23%. Not only did patients have a better experience, but RTLS contributed to increasing profits."
Integrate RTLS with other data-rich systems and mobile communications and it becomes the means for automating low value tasks and allow more time for patients.
In the Emergency Department
According to Top 6 Reasons Hospitals Should Deploy RTLS,
"RTLS offers a way for EDs to enhance performance on those two fronts while protecting a major revenue stream: ED patients represent over 50 percent of all inpatient admissions, 45 percent of a hospital's overall revenue, 71 percent of a facility's intensive care days, 66 percent of inpatient lab tests and 58 percent of inpatient days.
By deploying RTLS to reduce the rate of patients who leave the ED without being seen and ambulance diversions, facilities can significantly boost their bottom line. For example, Philadelphia-based Albert Einstein Medical Center estimates RTLS contributed more than $14.8 million in 2010 alone through lower left-without-being-seen and diversion rates."
4. RTLS + Predictive Analytics
Combining RTLS with predictive analytics - as in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning - and the ability to truly orchestrate excellence becomes reality. The same resource explains,
"RTLS-based systems include a time-stamp capability that allow hospitals to collect data; track and monitor care intervals; and analyze response times more accurately, reliably and rapidly than they could using clinicians and others to capture information manually.
The accuracy and reliability of manually-captured data is questionable because medical personnel often must deal with patient crises, making it difficult for them to record precisely when an event occurred or a task was performed.
On the other hand, RTLS automatically records every interaction a patient has with a nurse, physician or other caregiver exactly at the moment it occurs, providing facilities high-quality baseline information to identify and address problem areas."
5. RTLS Helps Manage Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs)
Does your healthcare facility struggle with managing HAIs? If you have RTLS in place for hospital asset tracking, you can also make use of it to combat infections. For example, as The Rise of Real-Time Location Tracking (RTLS) Adoption in Healthcare describes,
"There are several ways to apply RTLS (against HAIs). For example, once a facility becomes aware that a patient has a dangerous infection, the tracking system could monitor where that person goes in the hospital and which equipment or rooms are potentially contaminated.
Also, RTLS help reduces the spread of infection by providing more transparency about which patients have infections and therefore require staff members to take extra precautions for protection. In facilities without RTLS, such information is often manually prepared and may not reach all the people who enter the room of an infected person.
Since RTLS track patient locations, it’s easy for people to see exactly where infected patients are before going into their rooms, giving them the knowledge needed to stay maximally protected from possible exposure."
Your RTLS system can also monitor for compliance with hand-hygiene procedures. Top 6 Reasons Hospitals Should Deploy RTLS offers serious data in support:
"Approximately 1.7 million patients annually contract an infection during their hospitalization, resulting in 99,000 deaths and an estimated $20 billion in additional healthcare costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An effective strategy to reduce and prevent infections is for clinicians to wash their hands before touching patients, but hospitals have great difficulty achieving even a 50 percent compliance rate. A study in the May/June 2009 issue of the American Journal of Medical Quality found the hand-washing rate in intensive care units was 26 percent and non-ICUs was 36 percent. Institutions using RTLS to monitor hand-washing workflows and identify items a patient has or will come in contact with can drive those rates well past 90 percent."
6. RTLS and Risk Management
RTLS hold benefits for managing risk whether for legal compliance, addressing patient complaints and ensuring safety for both patients and staff.
- You can prove that equipment was moved.
- You have data substantiating speed of care.
- You can prevent patients from wandering and getting lost.
- You can trigger notifications given specific situations.
"Clinical-grade RTLS also improves a hospital's overall security in numerous ways, such as through a staff duress notification capability that enables immediate response during emergencies by instantly locating the specific employee under duress. Infants are protected through small, comfortable and unobtrusive tags which actively communicates with the system and allows staff bed- and bassinet-level location visibility.
Seniors and other patients who might pose a risk for wandering can also wear similar tags to protect their safety. Integration of these technologies through RTLS offers instant location confirmation while protecting the hospital against potential liability risks."
7. Maintaining and Managing Hospital Assets
Separate from tracking hospital assets in maintaining and managing them. For that reason, it's worth appreciating how RTLS simplifies hospital asset management as 5 Reasons Your Hospital Needs Wi-Fi RTLS details,
"Clinical engineers face a variety of daily tasks including equipment recalls, preventive maintenance and corrective maintenance. The manual process of locating equipment throughout entire hospital campuses is labor intensive. Preventive maintenance is regulated by commissions and bodies who periodically audit the hospital’s equipment maintenance records.
Wi-Fi RTLS helps improve regulatory compliance through higher levels of on-time completion of equipment maintenance. It also increases clinical engineering efficiency and productivity. Using Wi-Fi RTLS in healthcare for equipment maintenance will improve patient safety through successful recall management and timely equipment maintenance."
8. Temperature Monitoring
Monitoring temperature as well as humidity levels for medications, tissues, blood and other items affects patient safety and quality of care. Rather than rely on manual processes, RTLS can automatically log temperature levels and alert designated staff when issues arise.
9. Improving Patient Satisfaction Thanks to RTLS
Perhaps the ultimate in going beyond hospital asset tracking is affecting the patient experience so it results in improvements in patient satisfaction. This is a point made in How to Address 3 Common Problems in Healthcare Today. Glenn Raup Explains. By monitoring and tracking, you gain insights on your processes including that what you thought satisfied a patient doesn't, and vice versa. You also learn what to improve.
Documented Benefits Resulting from Not Only Hospital Asset Tracking, But Simply Using RTLS
To put all of these benefits into financial perspective, here's what Becoming a “smart hospital” with clinical-grade RTLS recaps:
"After just one year, a 500-bed hospital in Southern California that recently implemented a clinical-grade RTLS, reduced its rate of lost or stolen devices from nearly 14 percent to zero. As a result, the hospital saw between $150,000 and $200,000 in annual savings. The hospital was also able to reduce annual rental expenses by $276,000. Utilization of existing equipment is up so future capital expenditures are expected to reduce.
RTLS can help a hospital increase the number of revenue-enhancing procedures, such as surgeries, or other critical procedures, by automating patient flow. RTLS can also automatically provide location- and time-specific data such as case status, milestones, patient location, and department work queues, such as waiting room, pre-op, inter-op, PACU and post-op. Recently, at a 953-bed Level 1 Trauma hospital that installed a clinical-grade RTLS, the prime-time utilization of the facility's 16 operating rooms increased by 23 percent."
Going Beyond Hospital Asset Tracking with RTLS
Have you implemented asset tracking in your hospital? What benefits have you seen?
To learn more, read The ROI of Asset Intelligence vs. Asset Tracking in Hospitals.
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