The ability to accurately track the location of assets and individuals indoors has many applications in healthcare. As hospital mobile assets such as carts, wheelchairs, instruments, and devices have proliferated, finding and deploying them to the best use more efficiently is a challenge that has also grown. Hundreds of hours per year are spent inventorying and searching for equipment, and up to 15% of all high-value equipment may be lost, stolen or misplaced in a given year.
In order to efficiently use hospital’s mobile assets such as carts, wheelchairs, instruments and devices, Asset-tracking and location aware applications are becoming an integral component of addressing these problems encountered in this area. Asset Management solution is a cost-effective way to continuously monitor and proactively manage the location, status and condition of all assets across the enterprise in real-time.
These Asset management applications mostly use Real-Time Location Systems; RFID, wireless and GPS solutions belong to a family of technologies referred to as location-based services (LBS). Today, wireless technology is also seen as a viable option for real-time location tracking requirements. Using wireless solution enables healthcare organizations to increase operational efficiency, enhance staff productivity and improve patient safety—all while avoiding unnecessary costs.
Asset tracking using wireless technology is just a subset of larger location- and condition-sensing technology platform technologies. The larger set also includes solutions such as people tracking for patients and clinicians and condition sensing, which includes the capture of environmental conditions (temperature, humidity, light, motion) and medical device status that require close monitoring. These additional features require different RFID sensors and respective RTLS software applications available in the market. One such example is automatically and wirelessly detects temperature and humidity breaches
Any Healthcare Asset management solution includes:
- Healthcare Asset Management Application platform
- Healthcare Wi-Fi Tags
- Location Engine
- Hospital’s Wi-Fi Infrastructure
Using RTLS enabled wireless technology; one can transmit, store and analyze geospatial location information of wireless tags attached to tracked mobile healthcare assets. Infusion pumps, ultrasound, and clinical monitors), wheelchairs, gurneys, beds, carts, workstations on wheels and patient lifts are most common items that can be tracked as these items can have significant cost as well.
Wi-Fi tags are attached to these items to be tracked to communicate information over wireless. These tags area available in primarily 2 type i.e. Active & Passive. Active tags contain their own battery and collect information and transmit it back to its application server. Similarly, passive tags are one’s which does not have a battery and use energy from external reader to power up and send the information.
Active tags also provide bigger coverage area up to 100m compare to passive tags which are limited to few meters. This makes active tags more suitable for tracking objects which are mostly in motion. Readers are devices with the ability to information from tags and forward it to the application server.
Wireless Access Points are examples of such readers in wireless driven RTLS healthcare location tracking environment. Passive tags communicate with wireless access points which further collect all information from these tags and forward to the application over hospital’s wired network.
Upon collecting the information from such readers, asset management/tracking application correlate data and store data for further queries presented to it. It also analyzes for inventory management and efficiency purposes.
Few challenges related to using Wireless driven Asset tracking and management for healthcare includes:
- Accurate triangulation of devices requires, sophisticated wireless RF planning and deployment
- Adding IR, Ultrasound technology may increase overall complexity of deployment
- Providing 100% wireless coverage across hospital may cost very high
- Understanding and using right tag for your hospital is essential and requires good planning and knowledge of the technology.
To achieve better coverage and cost effective solution, one should use the combination of IR, Ultrasound technologies along with wireless technology for higher accuracy and save some dollars!