Piedmont Healthcare Expands RTLS to Six Hospitals

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Oct 05, 2016—Piedmont Healthcare, one of Georgia's largest health-care systems, is expanding its use of a real-time location system (RTLS) that it first installed at its Atlanta hospital five years ago, to track the locations of its assets in real time. The company has since deployed the solution at Piedmont Henry Hospital, in Stockbridge, Piedmont Fayette Hospital, in Fayetteville, Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, in Jasper, and Piedmont Newnan Hospital, in Newnan. Next year, the firm plans to take the RTLS live at Piedmont Newton Hospital, in Covington.

This year, Piedmont Healthcare began using the RTLS for its specialty bed rental operation, newly launched to share its beds among its hospitals, thereby saving it the rental fees it previously paid to outside companies. The solution consists of CenTrak tags and access points (devices used to receive the tags' RF transmissions), as well as Vizzia Technologies' software platform, residing on the hospital's server.

Piedmont's Steven Kelley

Piedmont is also using wireless sensors to monitor the temperatures of refrigerators and freezers. For temperature management, Vizzia provides L-Com's Point Six sensors, with the sensor data managed on Vizzia's software platform.

Piedmont Atlanta is the largest and most complex of the six hospitals that the company currently owns. The facility had processes in place to manage equipment used by nurses, says Steven Kelley, Piedmont's manager of diagnostic imaging repair and biomedical engineering, but still found that the items were not always available when the biomed department or nurses needed them. Each of approximately 25 nurse stations has clean and dirty rooms in which movable medical equipment (MMEs), such as pumps and respiratory equipment, should be stored. In the dirty room, the items awaited cleaning, while in the clean room they were ready for patient use. Because equipment could not always be located, the company sought a solution from Vizzia, which provided an EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system in 2006.

With the UHF RFID deployment, Vizzia affixed passive EPC Gen 2 tags above doorways, as well as to equipment. The unique ID number encoded to each tag was linked to the corresponding item's serial number and description, while the tag above each door was linked to that room or location. Workers then used Zebra Technologies MC90xx series handheld readers to access data regarding equipment, as well as to read tags and update location information. For instance, employees read the tag above the doorway to a particular room, such as the cleaning area, then the tag of each piece of equipment being put into that room.

On a daily basis, says Andrew Halasz, Vizzia's president and CEO, Piedmont or Vizzia team members would make MME deliveries and pickups. When doing so, they would take their handheld readers with them to continuously update the inventory data.

In 2011, the hospital transitioned to an RTLS solution that replaced the UHF RFID system. "The reason behind that was to further refine asset-management processes and track more active items, like wheelchairs and gurneys," Halasz states, "while also enabling future process improvement initiatives, like staff workflow enhancement."

Although the RFID system was helping the hospital to monitor MMEs as they moved through the cleaning process and as they awaited reuse, Kelley says, the solution could not track anything outside of those designated and tagged areas. "The passive RFID system showed the last known location" of a piece of equipment, he explains, but the hospital wanted greater visibility.

So in 2011, Vizzia installed a CenTrak RTLS solution throughout Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. CenTrak tags were attached to wheelchairs, gurneys, beds and MMEs. Each tag receives the ID numbers transmitted by infrared (IR) beacons within its range, then forwards that information, along with its own identifier, to a CenTrak access point, via a 900 MHz RF signal.

Vizzia's Andrew Halasz

Subsequently, Piedmont began installing the RTLS technology at its other hospitals. At each facility, 80 to 130 dedicated CenTrak access points are installed. Every patient room and procedure room has a battery-powered CenTrak Gen2IR infrared beacon, and all movable medical equipment is tagged with CenTrak Multi-Mode Asset Tags. The Vizzia software utilizes the RTLS data to display location information, and to enable the hospital to collect historical data in order to better understand trends, such as what equipment is not being used, or where bottlenecks occur.

"I can see when and where items aren't going back into the soiled room," Kelley says. "I can see if there are five pumps in one room." The software also detects if a protocol is not being followed. For example, if a piece of equipment is used on a patient, then is moved to another patient's room without first undergoing the proper cleaning procedure, the system will display that event.

In addition, Kelley says, in the event that a device is recalled, not only can he use the system to identify where that item is located in real time (so that it can be retrieved), but he can also view historical data regarding where the device has been, such as in which patient rooms. That information can then be compared against the medical record system, thus indicating which patient may have been in contact with that device.

Now that the system is being installed at all of Piedmont's facilities, Kelley says, hospital management can remotely view the inventory of its assets at all of the hospitals, and can identify if something needs to be moved, such as a particular specialty bed that has been transported to one hospital but needs to be returned to another. Piedmont is now renting its beds out to its own hospitals, enabling them to avoid paying excessive rental fees to third-party companies. Kelley expects Piedmont's bed-rental service will save the company money. The technology reduces the amount of labor time that personnel need to spend walking the floors searching for missing items and also decreases the need to purchase extra items if a particular specialty bed cannot be located.

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Last update: Oct 06, 2016

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