8 Ways Bluetooth RTLS Solutions Can Directly Increase Hospital Efficiencies, Safety, and Income

8 Ways Bluetooth RTLS Solutions Can Directly Increase Hospital Efficiencies, Safety, and Income

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) are often associated with industrial or manufacturing applications but they are quietly revolutionizing the way hospitals and other healthcare facilities operate. 


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When you think about it, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Underneath some superficial differences, hospitals and manufacturing operations have a lot in common, characteristics that are ideally suited to RTLS’s ability to refine and optimize processes through better visibility. Like industrial settings, hospitals need to keep track of expensive equipment over large and segmented areas. They often suffer from a mismatch between how workflows are designed and the physical areas where staff operate. Hospitals, like manufacturers, have areas that need to be secured against unauthorized entry while providing and documenting access to those spaces to the right people. 

When viewed strictly as a collection of processes involving significant numbers of moving parts, many of the distinctions between hospitals and more familiar settings for RTLS deployments melt away. 

If you’re responsible for hospital administration or anything to do with cutting costs, creating operational efficiencies or enhancing staff and patient safety, all while limiting legal liability, it’s time to learn more about how RTLS and Kontakt.io’s Simon Location Analytical Platform can help. 

Here are eight ways that location data derived from RTLS solutions powered by Simon Location Analytics Platform can help hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

1. Improved staff productivity and precise on-site time tracking

Operational efficiency is mission-critical for hospitals. With fixed space and resources deployed against ever-increasing patient traffic, it’s the only way to handle the workload while maintaining patient care standards. The insights made possible by Bluetooth RTLS provide you with the data to easily track how much time particular staff members, teams or other personnel are on site (including overtime), along with their arrival and departure times. These precise measurements, in addition to eliminating the element of human error and time clocks, can inform smarter decisions about staffing. Not only can they help find the optimal balance between over- and under-staffing, but you can also set up automatic alerts when certain time limits are reached. This, in turn, can help to mitigate against legal liability and medical errors while increasing patient satisfaction.

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2. Enhanced security for patients, staff and visitors

Hospitals have a number of areas where access is strictly limited for various reasons. Storage rooms with restricted medications, small but expensive devices or sensitive data or records are off-limits for all but a few with special permission. This can apply to even high-ranking staff for obvious reasons of accountability should anything go missing or be used inappropriately. 

Using RTLS, hospitals can simultaneously control access through automated lock mechanisms, while keeping detailed, time-stamped records of exactly which staff member entered and exited restricted areas. These records can be archived and accessed as needed should they be required to help resolve organizational issues, investigations or other conflicts.

Also, alerts can be set up to notify a predefined responder when unauthorized personnel enter a restricted zone or accompany someone who has been granted access. Taken together, these security measures help to:

  • protect valuable physical assets and supplies
  • assign accountability for their use 
  • maintain accurate inventories 
  • supply documentation in the event of legal issues or other disputes
  • demonstrate compliance with applicable regulations regarding the storage of sensitive materials


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3. Clearing the facility in the event of an emergency

Hospital protocols are full of “what if” scenarios for emergency situations regarding individual patients but what if emergency circumstances call for the entire building to be evacuated? As unlikely as it may seem, it’s still contingency you have to plan for and RTLS is once again able to help. 

When the unimaginable happens and dangers arise, every second counts. The size and complexity of hospital spaces pose a major challenge for anyone trying to ensure that patients, visitors and staff have all been moved to safety. Moving from room to room doing visual inspections simply isn’t an option. Add to that the reality of so many mobility-impaired individuals spread out over the building and you begin to sense the extreme difficulty involved. 

RTLS-enabled tags can give you complete visibility into everyone’s location in real time. Identify who’s in the building (and where) and who’s not with the touch of a button. Alternatively, you can create a map with predetermined muster (meeting) points for separate areas of the building and know instantly if everyone assigned to them is ready to be led out to safety. 

Finally, if emergency services are involved, RTLS will allow you to tell them exactly how many people are in the building and where they are. Again, when desperate moments leave no time for delay, you’ll be in a position to direct rescue services straight to where they need to go without wasting time searching areas that you already know have been cleared. 

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4. Staff safety and protection

Harassment and threats to the physical safety of staff, nurses in particular, are an unfortunate reality of healthcare these days. Often alone with potentially volatile patients in remote areas of large buildings, nurses can suddenly find themselves in dangerous situations without help or support nearby. 

RLTS-enabled tags fitted with panic buttons can provide a way for anyone on staff to quickly and discreetly call for help whenever they need it. This peace of mind not only provides comfort for staff and promotes a better working environment, but can be a decisive factor when trouble happens. The ability to store and analyze historical data can also deliver insights that can reveal common characteristics or circumstances that define high-risk situations, allowing you to take the appropriate countermeasures. 

Meeting patient care expectations is easier when staff feel physically safe in their own workplace. Knowing that they can quietly and remotely call for help whenever needed allows them to concentrate on the task at hand and minimizes the element of uncertainty that can distract them away from vital details about patient issues. Help nurses do their jobs by letting them carry a simple card that keeps them connected to their colleagues at all times. 

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5. Automated compliance monitoring 

We would need a separate blog to list all the ways that healthcare facilities are regulated, monitored and checked. With the possible exception of a nuclear power plant, it’s hard to think of any area that’s more obligated to deal with the demands of legal compliance. 

Take the matter of medicine storage in hospitals, for example. Maintaining the proper storage environment—in terms of temperature, humidity, etc.—is critical to the effectiveness and safety of drugs. Sometimes even small violations of the appropriate standards can have disastrous consequences. RTLS hardware enabled with environmental sensors can monitor and document storage conditions in a way that manual reporting—with its costs, risks and inaccuracy—cannot. RTLS can also remotely deliver real-time information and, as with other use cases on this list, send automated alerts when predefined ranges are exceeded. 

Compliance with other areas of hospital operation is also made easier with RTLS. Documenting things like staff work time and access to sensitive materials (both described separately on this list) is easier when manual paperwork is eliminated in favor of digital monitoring and the automatic generation of reports in Simon. Again, historical data is archived and easily shareable so why fill shelves with notebooks full of paper when you can put Simon in charge of large parts of your compliance obligations? 

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6. Optimized patient flow

Even putting aside the actual health problems that hospitals deal with, there is a long list of other issues with the potential to dramatically slow down the process of moving patients through the facility. After all, whatever its primary purpose, ultimately hospitals are large buildings with segmented areas full of people moving in all directions. The opportunities for bottlenecks, backups and delays are endless. 

With RTLS, you get visibility, both live in real time and historical, into how people and assets move around a space in digital form. This provides the kind of insight that is simply impossible through manual observation. With hard data in the form of wait times, individual & station productivity and even room occupancy rates, you can optimize the way every aspect of patient handling is organized. With RTLS solutions, you don’t have to wait until things reach a crisis point (that’s when you notice things through manual observation) to make the necessary adjustments to facilitate and accelerate patient flow. 

Think of RTLS as an early warning system for issues that, if left alone, have the power to bring the whole process to a halt. Wouldn’t you like to know about problems long before they cause a chain reaction of trouble that creates multiple opportunities for patients to complain about the quality of the care they receive? 

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7. Optimize asset utilization, inventory management and search times

Hospitals have millions of dollars worth of equipment scattered over what is often a massive complex of rooms, wards, wings and departments. It’s inevitable that much of that equipment is going to be far from where it is needed now in emergency situations. Searching for medical equipment, especially in the event of an emergency, wastes staff time and puts patient health at risk.

Simon allows your staff to quickly locate the nearest required piece of equipment, whatever it may be, from wheelchairs to surgical instruments and everything in between. This can directly impact patient outcomes and satisfaction while optimizing labor costs. What’s the point of constantly paying staff to search a huge area for the same equipment, over and over? 

The benefits of asset tracking and utilization in hospitals are the same as asset tracking and utilization anywhere else—maximizing ROI while always having up-to-date information about how many of a given item you have on hand. Too many pieces of equipment X or too few? One is bad for the bottom line and the other compromises patient care. Avoid both of them through the smart tracking of assets using RTLS and Simon. 

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8. Streamlined bed management

There are no holidays or days off in hospitals and the points of entry are never closed. To avoid backups at patient intake points, they need to be assigned to a bed and moved forward in the process as quickly as possible.

By providing constantly updated information about bed location and availability, RTLS accelerates the process of assigning patients to rooms and wards. Manual counting is time-consuming and unreliable anyway since results are never in synch with real-time patient traffic. With location data, the number and location of available beds is always known, allowing patients to be assigned faster and without the need for manual checks. 

Room and bed turnover time can be reduced when you get automatic updates as they become available for another patient. Also, if full capacity is being approached, you can get alerts to give you time to make alternate arrangements.

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That should be enough of an introduction to just what RTLS-based solutions can do for the business side of hospitals and other healthcare operations. If this has you curious about how this kind of deployment works, check out our blog about 3 Ways to Implement Automation in Hospitals. If you’re ready for a deeper dive, our white paper on Active Monitoring in Healthcare might be just the thing to answer questions you might have.

If you are looking for an end to end RTLS solution for healthcare, click here to schedule a demo.

Active Monitoring in Healthcare

 

Aneta Ciurkot - Photo
  • Aneta Ciurkot
  • Product Marketing & Partnership Manager

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