Primary growth of Real-time Location Services (RTLS) will occur in the following segments:
1. Enterprise-wide Coverage – Knowing the location, status, and movement of equipment, staff, and patients improves productivity and reduces capital expenditures. You will never achieve goals of workflow and productivity improvement without an enterprise system because hospitals are very complicated and do not function in a linear (manufacturing) capacity. Once you tag someone or something, what do you want to do with the location data?
2. Location Accuracy – How close is close? Zonal, room level, sub-room level – all critical factors when determining the type of RTLS system or systems you choose. Good rules to follow: One, when dealing with patients, the closer the better – room/sub-room level. This is key in high throughput areas such as the ER, OR, ICU, and Med-Surge Departments. Two, when dealing with equipment for tracking and maintenance purposes only, zonal (within 25’) will be sufficient. But, if you want to tie utilization of equipment into the mix, room level will be required.
3. Installation and Maintenance – Installation considerations are a main factor in both the initial cost and ongoing success of an RTLS program. The best and most successful tracking programs are ones that have a dedicated group assigned to the program. These individuals make up different disciplines, such as IS, Bio-Medical, Security, and Nursing.
4. Interoperability – RTLS programs should be supported by standards-based technology (i.e., open API – Application Programming Interface) in order to provide location and status information to end-users and third party application partners. Integrating RTLS systems into existing HIS, ADT, Maintenance, RIS, ERIS, OR, and Bed Management are a current and future trend; however, some RTLS manufacturers have spent time and money creating “best of breed” applications, thereby eliminating the need for some integration. Nevertheless, having open architecture API RTLS systems offer great flexibility and are a must when choosing system partners.
5. Financial Risk – Remove the financial barrier by partnering with companies that provide shared risk acquisition models. Most of the RTLS system manufacturers and integrators offer “trial or pilot programs”, giving hospitals the ability to “kick the tires” of a system without the full financial commitment upfront. It also gives the facility much needed experience and exposure as to how flexible the system is and performs, and whether they like the manufacturer/system integrator who will be installing and maintaining the system for years to come. This is a good way to form a non-threatening relationship that either blooms into a full marriage or parts ways.
6. Use the Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS) Method – To understand the time and money it takes to maintain an RTLS program, look at the low-hanging fruit that must be managed first:
- Critical Assets – IV pumps, Wheel Chairs, Beds, C-Arms, Mobile Computers
- Patient Care Staff Members, Housekeeping and Transport, Maintenance Teams
- Patients in the ED, OR, Med-Surge
- Infants and Pediatrics
These four categories are typical in most RTLS programs and are areas that cause and require the most time, energy, headaches, expense, and liabilities to the bottom line of a hospital.