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By Scott Hondros

As the healthcare sector evolves and recovers from the impact of COVID-19, digital innovations have become increasingly significant within facilities. The principal catalysts of this digital revolution in healthcare are improved care outcomes, caregiver welfare, and team optimization efforts. In response, leading health systems have already adopted—or are seriously considering—the implementation of advanced location technology, which eases the burden on staff and enhances care by automating non-clinical processes and providing comprehensive facility visibility.

The location data collected from patients, staff, mobile medical equipment (MME), and specific sites ensure actionable insights that facilitate tangible outcomes and alleviate facility bottlenecks. Emerging IoT location technology, like real-time location systems (RTLS), offer the necessary support for resource-limited healthcare teams. RTLS were designed with clinicians and caregivers in mind, providing safe and efficient healthcare experiences for the patients and senior living residents. RTLS are readily scalable solutions enabling decision-makers to instantly offer comprehensive visibility or to develop enterprise visibility gradually as needs evolve.

Whether implementing a singular RTLS solution or ensuring comprehensive visibility across a facility or community, teams gain invaluable insights. Leadership should choose a strategic RTLS partner offering a range of solutions and consulting services to guarantee the best return on investment. If needs alter in the future, the team can collaborate with the RTLS partner to easily broaden to other solutions for enhanced real-time visibility. By deploying use cases addressing the most pressing pain points, healthcare facilities and senior living communities acquire insights that can drive system-wide enhancements and savings. Teams can leverage this actionable data to deliver better care and safety, while meeting business objectives.

Workflow Visibility Enables Efficiency For Patients, Residents, And Staff In Healthcare Facilities

The IoT technology and sensors powering many RTLS platforms use badges, tags, and wearables to provide accurate location information for equipment, patients, residents, and staff. Through an automated workflow system, teams and facility managers maintain synchronized, real-time insights and communication to continuously measure interactions, minimize bottlenecks, monitor patient milestones, evaluate movement patterns for optimal staffing, and increase workflow efficiency throughout healthcare facilities and senior resident communities.

RTLS also offers a robust reporting engine that allows healthcare professionals and managers to track key patient flow metrics such as patient volume, length of stay, room utilization, patient wait times, and time with a care provider. When caregivers aren’t burdened with tracking patient progress or waiting for status updates to be manually input into the system, they can manage their daily workflow more effectively and dedicate more time to high-quality patient care. Healthcare decision-makers can eliminate non-value-adding tasks by investing in an advanced workflow platform that incorporates staff display boards and reduces non-clinical manual systems.

Similarly, real-time communication, visibility, and automation in senior living communities equip teams with actionable location data for residents and staff. Lightweight, waterproof wearables link to the community’s RTLS, making resident locating convenient and efficient for caregivers. RTLS sensors placed in strategic locations throughout the community and wearable devices digitally assigned to residents and staff provide definite location information, enhancing the safety and efficiency of the entire community. RTLS reduces manual documentation with automated active care time reports, interaction logs, alert history, and alert response details. Communities can also monitor staff demand periods.

RTLS Minimize Care Delays And Enhance Asset Locating

A recent McKinsey survey noted that nurses spend about 6% of a 12-hour shift on asset hunting and gathering—tasks they would ideally allocate approximately 3% of their shift time to. RTLS equip healthcare facilities with asset management for real-time room- and bay-level map views, list equipment locations, report equipment usage, and alert equipment maintenance schedules. Knowing the precise location of essential MME drastically cuts down the time staff spend searching, improving staff efficiency, satisfaction, and patient care response time.

Ensuring all MME is stocked, clean, and readily available is vital for safe and prompt care. To address inefficiencies related to managing MME, Mission Hospital utilized RTLS to monitor the location and maintenance of equipment, resolving facility distribution problems. After the RTLS implementation, the hospital noticed a significant decrease in lost devices, annual savings of $200,000, and a 50% surge in nurse satisfaction. Providing asset visibility support is the initial step towards creating an operationally efficient environment for healthcare staff.

Reducing Workplace Violence And Resident Wandering

Violence in healthcare settings has surged in recent years, particularly against nurses and direct caregivers. An IoT-enabled RTLS safety solution offers a reliable and real-time emergency alerting system capable of preventing threats and concerns from escalating into dangerous situations. The technology enables healthcare staff to discreetly send panic alerts to the security team from a readily accessible button on their wearable badge. Once activated, the badge communicates the staff member’s location to a computer workstation, in-unit display monitor, and security dispatcher via email, SMS alert, or VoIP phone message. The solution also integrates with traditional security systems, access control and mass notification systems, and various third-party applications.

During emergencies in healthcare facilities and senior living communities, every second counts, and without accurate real-time information, response staff often must guess between floors and rooms.

An RTLS emergency alert offers peace of mind by instantly and accurately conveying the exact user location and directing the fastest response path. Within senior living communities, residents, their families, and caregivers can be assured that in an emergency, individuals can request help using RTLS anywhere on campus. Residents and staff don’t have to worry about finding a fixed emergency station if they have a wearable RTLS pendant or badge; they simply press the button on their device. The peace of mind RTLS offers is invaluable. Residents maintain their independence, secure in the knowledge that help is always within arm’s reach.

Teams can also apply location technology for wander management to further support resident independence. Residents may wander into off-limit areas or leave the building. Using the RTLS digital map with other IoT-enabled devices lets staff quickly and easily locate wandering residents in real-time and respectfully redirect them before they leave the safety and security of the community. If a resident enters an off-limits location, a real-time alert notification, with custom escalation paths, is sent via text message or push notification to mobile devices. When caregivers receive an alert, the resident’s name and exact location are provided, enabling an immediate response. This technology grants residents independence while equipping staff with the tools to quickly address a potentially dangerous situation.

Choosing The Right Technology To Pair With The Team

Beyond comprehensive coverage of all solutions, it’s advisable to select a partner that can implement real-time offerings across various care settings. For instance, the executive team at The Meadows Senior Community in Iowa, was interested in upgrading their technology to provide real-time resident location awareness and was introduced to RTLS through their association with Iowa Specialty Hospital—where an RTLS infant protection solution was successfully implemented in the L&D unit. This successful implementation of RTLS in their connected hospital gave The Meadows reassurance that RTLS was the right choice to ensure staff and resident safety. The community then installed an RTLS-based emergency call platform tailored for senior living, enabling the care team to improve response times and add extra safety measures with significant cost savings.

Finding a strategic RTLS partner with a comprehensive solution suite simplifies the system expansion over time to other aspects of facility or community operations. After analyzing the data insights provided by RTLS and experiencing a meaningful return on the initial investment, executive teams and operations managers are encouraged to further develop RTLS. Early investment in the right strategic partner allows leadership to enhance the existing system infrastructure to better support patients, residents, healthcare professionals, and families.

Hondros is the Vice President of Professional Services at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. 

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Facility Executive Magazine