How RTLS Goes Beyond Hospital Asset Tracking

Orchestrating Excellence in Healthcare with RTLS

Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) have emerged as a pivotal innovation in healthcare, transcending traditional asset tracking to enhance patient care, staff workflows, and operational efficiency. Detailed in the Zebra report, ‘The Future of Healthcare: 2022 Hospital Vision Study,’ RTLS’s integration into healthcare settings is at the forefront of embracing dynamic staff workflows, remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and artificial intelligence (AI). These transformative technology trends are reshaping the healthcare industry, offering a glimpse into the future where RTLS plays a central role in streamlining healthcare delivery and meeting the evolving demands of patients and staff.

Dynamic Staff Workflows

According to Zebra, the practical application of RTLS technology in healthcare settings has revolutionized staff workflows, enabling a level of coordination and efficiency previously unattainable. For instance, at Mercy Hospital St. Louis, the implementation of RTLS for nursing staff resulted in a 50% reduction in the time spent searching for equipment, allowing nurses to allocate more time to direct patient care. This not only improved the quality of care but also significantly enhanced job satisfaction among the nursing staff. Such examples underscore the tangible benefits of RTLS in creating dynamic and responsive healthcare environments.

Remote Patient Monitoring

The integration of RTLS with remote patient monitoring systems represents a leap forward in patient care, particularly for those with chronic conditions or those requiring post-operative monitoring. RTLS can help in tracking patient movements within a healthcare facility, ensuring that patients receive timely care and interventions. When combined with wearable devices that monitor vital signs, RTLS can facilitate the remote monitoring of patients’ health status, alerting healthcare providers to potential issues before they become emergencies. This capability aligns with the trend towards more proactive and preventive healthcare models.


Telehealth has been propelled to the forefront of healthcare delivery models, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. RTLS plays a supportive role in telehealth by enhancing the patient experience within healthcare facilities. For example, RTLS can help manage appointment schedules more efficiently, reducing wait times and ensuring that consultations start on time, whether they are in-person or virtual. This efficiency can improve patient satisfaction and make telehealth options more viable and effective.

Artificial Intelligence

The convergence of RTLS and artificial intelligence (AI) is driving unprecedented advancements in healthcare. By analyzing RTLS-generated data, AI algorithms can identify patterns and predict trends that directly impact patient care and facility operations. For instance, AI can analyze movement data to optimize the scheduling and placement of staff throughout a hospital, ensuring that patient care is both timely and efficient.

Additionally, AI-driven predictive analytics can forecast equipment failures before they occur, scheduling maintenance proactively to avoid downtime. A notable example includes the use of AI to predict patient flow in emergency departments, enabling adjustments in staffing and resource allocation to improve patient wait times and satisfaction.

These specific applications highlight how AI, fueled by RTLS data, is not just an adjunct technology but a transformative force in healthcare, enhancing every facet from patient care to equipment management.

The Value of RTLS in Hospital Asset Tracking

The SecurEdge Networks article, “5 Reasons Your Hospital Needs WiFi RTLS,” outlines the significant impact of Wi-Fi Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) in making assets visible at all times within healthcare settings.

“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.”

SecurEdge – 5 Reasons Your Hospital Needs Wi-Fi RTLS

RTLS excels in providing unparalleled visibility and control over hospital assets, from mobile medical equipment to pharmaceuticals. This visibility is not just about knowing the location of assets but also about understanding their utilization patterns, which directly informs purchasing decisions, maintenance scheduling, and even theft prevention strategies.

For example, by tracking the usage and movement of high-value equipment like portable ultrasound machines, hospitals can ensure optimal allocation, reducing the need for costly emergency purchases or rentals. Furthermore, RTLS’s impact extends to ensuring compliance with maintenance schedules, significantly reducing the risk of equipment failure and associated patient care delays. The ability to pinpoint the exact location of equipment in real-time also streamlines emergency responses, ensuring that life-saving devices are readily accessible when seconds count.

1. Asset Management

Wi-Fi RTLS provides a comprehensive solution for tracking and managing hospital assets, such as medical equipment and devices. By utilizing the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, RTLS enables hospitals to locate equipment in real-time across the campus, even if items are behind closed doors. This capability significantly reduces the time staff spend searching for equipment, minimizes equipment loss and shrinkage, and cuts down on the costs associated with equipment rentals.

2. Patient Flow

The system improves patient flow by providing real-time information on the location and status of clinical staff, patients, rooms, and clinical equipment. Wi-Fi RTLS can automate alerts for room cleaning status, analyze patient wait times, and notify staff about missing equipment in specific departments. These features streamline department workflows and enhance the quality of patient care by ensuring resources are efficiently allocated and available where and when they are needed.

3. Patient & Staff Safety

Wi-Fi RTLS enhances safety for both patients and staff. For patients at risk of wandering, such as those with psychiatric conditions, trauma, or the elderly, RTLS can be a lifesaver by enabling staff to quickly locate and attend to these individuals. The system uses the hospital’s Wi-Fi network to track tagged patients anywhere within the network’s footprint, providing alerts if a patient enters restricted areas like fire escapes.

4. Equipment Maintenance

The article highlights how Wi-Fi RTLS streamlines equipment maintenance processes. Clinical engineers can more efficiently manage recalls, preventive maintenance, and corrective actions by easily locating equipment across hospital campuses. This not only improves regulatory compliance and productivity but also enhances patient safety through timely maintenance and recall management.

5. Temperature Monitoring

Wi-Fi RTLS is critical for monitoring the storage conditions of sensitive items like pharmaceuticals, tissues, organs, and blood products. By automating temperature tracking with Wi-Fi-enabled tags, hospitals can ensure these items are stored at safe temperatures, receive alerts for deviations, and maintain records for regulatory compliance and quality control.

Wi-Fi RTLS addresses several key operational challenges in hospitals by making assets visible at all times. This visibility leads to improved asset management, enhanced patient flow and safety, more efficient equipment maintenance, and reliable temperature monitoring, ultimately contributing to better patient care and operational efficiency.

Enhancing Operational Efficiency and Patient Care

The Vantage Technology Consulting Group article sites that beyond asset tracking, RTLS plays a pivotal role in managing hospital operations and improving patient and staff workflows. By tracking not only equipment but also people, RTLS enables better resource allocation and coordination. Vantage provides a comprehensive overview of Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) in healthcare, illustrating its significant benefits in enhancing operational efficiency, patient care, and asset management. One of the standout examples of RTLS’s impact is how it has been used to eliminate device loss and theft in hospitals.

“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.”

Vantage Technology Consulting Group – A Primer for RTLS in the Healthcare Industry

RTLS Implementation

Vantage notes that RTLS technology has been adopted in hospital environments since around 2011 and 2012. Despite its proven success, only about 20% of healthcare facilities were using the technology at the time of the article’s publication. However, advancements in RTLS technology and cloud-based solutions are expected to increase adoption rates. This underscores a significant opportunity for improvement in patient care and operational efficiency. As technology advances and the barriers to implementation are reduced, RTLS is poised to become a standard in healthcare, transforming how care is delivered and managed. The importance of RTLS lies in its potential to enhance every aspect of healthcare operations, from patient safety to asset management, making it a critical investment for the future of healthcare.

Vantage highlights several key perspectives:

1. Improving Patient Safety and Care

RTLS technology significantly enhances patient safety and care quality. By tracking the real-time location of patients, especially those who are vulnerable or at risk of wandering (such as elderly patients or those with cognitive impairments), healthcare facilities can prevent accidents and ensure timely intervention. Additionally, tracking the location and availability of medical equipment ensures that patient care is not delayed due to missing or misplaced items.

2. Enhancing Operational Efficiency

The ability to track assets, staff, and patients in real-time allows healthcare facilities to optimize workflows and resource allocation. This leads to reduced wait times for patients, more efficient use of medical equipment, and better overall operational efficiency. By knowing exactly where resources are, hospitals can minimize downtime and improve the delivery of care.

3. Asset Management and Cost Savings

RTLS helps in significantly reducing the loss and theft of expensive medical equipment. By providing real-time visibility of all tagged assets, healthcare facilities can manage their inventory more effectively, reducing the need for unnecessary replacements or rentals. This not only leads to direct cost savings but also ensures that critical equipment is available when needed, thereby supporting patient care.

4. Compliance and Safety

In healthcare, compliance with hygiene protocols and safety regulations is paramount. RTLS can help enforce compliance by monitoring staff movements and ensuring that procedures such as hand sanitization are followed before and after patient interactions. This can play a crucial role in infection control and maintaining high standards of patient care.

5. Data-Driven Decision Making

The data collected through RTLS can be analyzed to gain insights into operational bottlenecks, patient flow, and equipment utilization. This information can inform strategic decisions to improve facility management, patient care processes, and even predict future needs for staffing and equipment.

6. Future-Proofing Healthcare Facilities

With advancements in RTLS technology and the move towards cloud-based solutions, the scalability and flexibility of RTLS implementations are expected to improve. This makes it easier for healthcare facilities to adopt and integrate RTLS into their existing systems, ensuring they are equipped with the latest tools to meet the evolving demands of healthcare delivery.

How RTLS Works

Vantage describes RTLS as a system used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real time, typically within a building or other contained area. It involves wireless tags or badges that emit signals, and readers that receive these signals to track the location of the tags.

Core Components of RTLS

  1. Wireless Tags or Badges: These are small devices attached to objects or worn by people that need to be tracked. Each tag or badge has a unique identifier and is capable of emitting wireless signals. The technology used in these tags can vary, including RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification), IR (Infrared), Ultrasound, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), depending on the specific requirements of the RTLS application.
  2. Readers or Sensors: These devices are strategically placed throughout the facility to receive signals emitted by the tags or badges. The placement of readers is critical to ensure comprehensive coverage and accurate location tracking within the designated area. Readers can be connected to a central network, allowing them to communicate the data they collect in real-time.
  3. RTLS Software: The backbone of the RTLS system is the software that processes the data received from the readers. This software interprets the signal strength, timing, and other relevant information from multiple readers to triangulate the precise location of each tag. Advanced algorithms and data analytics are used to manage the data effectively, providing real-time visibility and insights into the movement of people and assets.

RTLS in Healthcare

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How RTLS Functions

  • Signal Emission and Reception: The process begins with tags or badges emitting signals at predetermined intervals. These signals are then captured by the readers distributed throughout the facility.
  • Data Processing: Once a reader detects a signal, it forwards this information to the RTLS software. If multiple readers detect the same tag, the software uses the information from these readers to calculate the tag’s location more accurately.
  • Location Triangulation: The RTLS software employs triangulation or other location algorithms to determine the precise location of the tag based on the signal strength and timing received by different readers. This method allows for real-time tracking of the tag’s movement within the facility.
  • Information Display and Utilization: The location information is then displayed on a digital map or interface, allowing hospital staff to quickly find the exact location of equipment, patients, or other staff members. This system can also integrate with other hospital management systems to automate and optimize workflows, such as alerting staff to equipment needs in specific areas, monitoring patient flow, and enhancing security measures.

Benefits of RTLS in Healthcare

  • Enhanced Operational Efficiency: By providing real-time information on the whereabouts of assets and personnel, RTLS enables healthcare facilities to optimize workflows, reduce equipment search times, and improve overall operational efficiency.
  • Improved Patient Care: RTLS facilitates better patient monitoring, ensuring that patients receive timely care and interventions. It also supports compliance with health and safety protocols, contributing to higher standards of patient care.
  • Asset Management: The system significantly reduces the loss and theft of valuable medical equipment by offering continuous visibility and tracking capabilities.
  • Data-Driven Insights: The accumulation of location data over time provides valuable insights into workflow patterns, asset utilization, and operational bottlenecks, enabling data-driven decisions to improve facility management and patient care.

Holistic Comprehensive View of Hospital Operations

HealthTech, through the implementation of systems like RTLS, provides a holistic overview of hospital operations by integrating data from various sources within the healthcare environment.

“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.”

HealthTech – Real-Time Location Systems Help Hospitals Track the Chaos

This integration includes tracking the real-time location of medical equipment, monitoring the movement and allocation of staff, and managing patient flow throughout the facility. The system’s capability to offer a comprehensive view is emphasized through several key functionalities:

  1. Real-Time Data Access: HealthTech systems enable access to real-time data, allowing healthcare providers to make informed decisions quickly. This immediate access to information about the location of equipment and personnel helps in optimizing resource allocation and reducing response times to patient needs.
  2. Integration with Hospital Information Systems: By integrating with other hospital information systems (HIS), such as Electronic Health Records (EHRs), patient management systems, and inventory control, HealthTech systems like RTLS provide a unified view of operations. This integration ensures that all aspects of hospital management are interconnected, from patient care to asset management, leading to more coordinated and efficient healthcare delivery.
  3. Analytics and Reporting: Advanced analytics capabilities allow HealthTech systems to process and analyze the vast amounts of data generated within a hospital. This analysis can identify trends, predict needs, and optimize workflows, contributing to a more efficient and proactive management approach.

Role of Visibility in Adapting to Expectations

The comprehensive visibility provided by HealthTech systems plays a crucial role in adapting to the evolving expectations of patients and staff in several ways:

  1. Enhanced Patient Care: Patients expect timely and personalized care. The visibility into staff locations and equipment availability enables healthcare providers to respond more quickly to patient needs, reducing wait times and improving the overall patient experience. Moreover, tracking patient flow through the facility can help in managing appointments more effectively, minimizing delays, and ensuring that patients receive attention promptly.
  2. Operational Efficiency: Staff in healthcare facilities are under constant pressure to deliver high-quality care efficiently. The comprehensive view offered by HealthTech systems helps in identifying bottlenecks in workflows, optimizing staff allocation, and ensuring that critical equipment is readily available when needed. This not only improves the work environment for staff but also contributes to better patient outcomes.
  3. Resource Optimization: By providing real-time visibility into the utilization of assets, HealthTech systems enable hospitals to manage their resources more effectively. This can lead to significant cost savings by reducing the need for equipment rentals, minimizing losses and theft, and ensuring that medical supplies are used efficiently.
  4. Meeting Regulatory Compliance: The ability to track and document the movement of patients, staff, and equipment facilitates compliance with health and safety regulations. This visibility ensures that hospitals can adhere to best practices in patient care and asset management, meeting the legal and ethical standards expected by regulatory bodies.

Other Significant Benefits of RTLS in Healthcare

  1. Human Asset Tracking: By enabling the tracking of patients and staff, RTLS ensures that the right people are in the right place at the right time, which is crucial for delivering timely and quality care.
  2. Managing Hospital-Acquired Infections (HAIs): RTLS can play a significant role in infection control by tracking patient movements and ensuring compliance with hand-hygiene protocols, thereby reducing the spread of HAIs.
  3. Risk Management: By providing precise location data, RTLS enhances hospital security and patient safety, also aiding in legal compliance and reducing liability risks.
  4. Temperature Monitoring: Automatic monitoring of temperature and humidity levels ensures the safety and efficacy of medications and biological materials.


The transformative potential of RTLS in healthcare is clear. It is an indispensable tool in the ongoing quest to enhance healthcare delivery, patient care, and safety. The time is now for healthcare facilities to embrace RTLS technology fully, leveraging its full suite of benefits to meet the evolving demands of patients and staff alike, and to set a new standard in healthcare excellence.

To learn more, read The ROI of Asset Intelligence vs. Asset Tracking in Hospitals.


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TAGNOS provides clinical systems integration, customizable reporting, dashboards, alerts, critical communication with staff and family to improve turnaround times, supporting patient flow, workflow orchestration, and asset management. 

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