New Cross Hospital installs location tracking technology

New Cross Hospital, which is overseen by Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, has installed location tracking software across its sites to monitor the location of equipment, patients and staff.

The West Midlands hospital originally deployed the software as part of its ‘SafeHands’ programme to improve hand hygiene compliance, but has since vastly expanded its use to help to improve hygiene, track medical devices and equipment, flag up emergency events and improve its management of beds.

For example, the technology is being used to ensure the prompt clearing of vacated patient rooms, analyse staff time at bedsides and record who was within the proximity of whom in the event of infectious diseases such as norovirus.

The solution comprises 750 wristbands for patients, plus 4,000 badges for employees and 1,226 asset tags, all of which use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and monitor location in real time.

The system works by using CenTrak’s infrared (IR) modules, which are the size of a smoke detector, to transmit a signal with a unique identifier. All the tags and badges are equipped with IR sensors that receive the module’s ID number.

The tag or badge then transmits a signal encoded with its ID and the module’s ID. One of the 4,000 RFID access points within range of the tag then capture that data and forward it to the TeleTracking software.

The technology uses a combination of Teletracking software and CenTrak real-time locating system [RTLS] hardware to pinpoint the location of a tag or badge assigned to a particular room or bed.

Each member of staff is expected to wash their hands before and after attending patients. For hand hygiene, an IR module has been installed above hand sanitising stations in the hospital, and each time a staff member dispenses soap or gel from the pump, the IR module transmits a signal and that data gets forwarded to the software.

The software then calculates staff members’ compliance rates, based on patient visits and hand-washing in between.

To track assets, tags are attached to devices and equipment such as wheelchairs, beds and pumps. The software captures and records location data, and can provide analytics which show what has been cleaned and what is due to be cleaned, based on the item’s location history.

This frees up time for patient care and also means equipment can be made available to patients more quickly, according to SafeHands programme manager Clare Nash.

New Cross has also mounted 42-inch touchscreens throughout the hospital for staff to access the tracking data and see their hygiene compliance rates. According to Nash, this has driven an increase in compliance.

She told RFID Journal: “For the first time, staff get immediate feedback on performance, driving changes in staff behaviour at the point of care, and creating healthy competition between wards who all want to be the best.”

The software is also used to monitor when patients leave their beds and for how long, via wristbands assigned to each patient which interact with the IR module installed by each bed. For example, if the patient appears to be alone in the bathroom for over 20 minutes, that triggers an alarm. It also means that staff members can locate missing patients.

Since the system was installed, it has prevented an average of 26 patient walkouts every day, according to Nash.

The badges include a button which employees can press if they encounter a situation requiring immediate attention. The software captures the event and the location and sends this data to the touchscreens, which emit an alarm and flash red. The hospital is planning to configure this software to send an email to security personnel as well.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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