Whether it’s a large-scale accident or a global pandemic that has your hospital dealing with a significantly larger influx of patients than normal, keeping up with triage for all patients becomes significantly more difficult. The sheer number of people that you must sort through during times where mere seconds can mean life or death leads to a situation that is both stressful and logistically challenging. This situation is worsened when that influx of people is carrying or potentially carrying a highly contagious illness as in the recent COVID-19 outbreak. In these situations, you need to balance the already stressful task of triage with the need to keep contagious patients as far from healthy patients and staff as possible.
This requires keeping track of people in a hectic and crowded environment. You must be able to quickly get patients into beds, while still keeping the contagious people quarantined as much as possible. This means not only tracking people but knowing immediately which beds are clear and who else may be in the room. This is one of the areas where technology can help, making it easier to track the people, the beds, and the conditions so you can get your patients sorted and moved as quickly as possible, cutting life-saving seconds off the time it would otherwise take.
How Real-Time Location Services Helps Medical Professionals
Bluetooth-enabled active staff badges, patient wristbands, and bed tags allow you to track every person in your hospital or medical center. You’ll know instantly where every patient, doctor, visitor, member of staff, and even bed are. This tracking requires no paperwork or other procedures that will slow you down and put lives at risk. Instead, anyone with an internet-capable device will be able to see the locations of everyone and everything tracked in real-time. This data, along with a well-trained staff, will allow for more staff autonomy, better health outcomes for your patients, and a better guarantee of safety for visitors.
What RTLS Does to Help You Manage a Crisis
Like almost every other device we use, the hospital wristband and staff badge can now be a lot smarter. The IoT (internet of things) allows various devices to connect to each other and exchange meaningful information. In the case of real-time location services in healthcare, this data includes tracking information and key bits of metadata that will give meaning to those locations.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways that hospitals and medical centers can use this technology to improve their ED triage process, whether it is during a mass casualty event, global pandemic, or simply day to day operations.
Live tracking patients and staff
Real-time location tracking allows staff to immediately locate those patients, which can be especially important if the patient were to fall, have a medical emergency, or test positive for a virus. Tracking patients in this way also allows you to keep them out of restricted areas that may be dangerous to them or isolated if needed.
Location data is key to fulfilling the central mission of triage operations—prioritizing. When every minute counts, wasting that time on locating patients defeats the purpose. With real-time tracking, it’s far easier to separate urgent cases from those assigned a lower priority and then to locate everyone as their time for treatment comes.
Manage ED patient flow, beds, and spaces
Once a patient has been placed, it is often necessary to move them between departments. At some point, they will be discharged. Both of these procedures can be paperwork heavy and lead to delays and errors. With real-time location tracking, it will not only be easier to keep track of patients, but you will be able to use the data that you gather to identify and resolve the bottlenecks that are slowing down your processes.
Trace patient and staff interactions
We’ve seen how fast a highly contagious virus, like COVID-19, can spread. It needs to be able to track patients that may be contagious and show in a system which visitors, patients and staff members have been in contact with affected patients to further decrease the spread of virus.
When you are busy trying to find a bed for everyone, you may end up inadvertently reusing equipment that has been contaminated. Keeping track of these things manually under high-stress situations is error-prone and can result in further transmission of the virus. Tracking systems allow you to tag contaminated beds and equipment so that extra care is taken not to use them until they have been sanitized.
How Real-Time Location Services Are Used for Tracking
For a while, the dominant tracking technology on the market was RFID. This technology is appropriate for some use cases, but it requires items to go through a checkpoint or be scanned by a human in order to track them. In a hectic hospital situation, this would only consume more valuable staff time and create more bottlenecks. It would not meet the needs of a hospital trying to efficiently respond to a crisis.
BLE devices do not require scanning. They work by triangulating their location with ‘base stations’ that have a known location. This means that you only need to place a BLE tracking tag on the object that you want to track and begin tracking it. Because they are smart devices, you can associate data with the tag. For example, as mentioned earlier, you could note that a piece of equipment is in need of sanitation or that a patient is contagious.
Because the location is always transmitting, the data is available in real-time, all the time. This data can be used not only by your staff but by powerful machine learning algorithms in the software that will help you identify bottlenecks and improve the flow of people and equipment in your hospital.
BLE devices are small, so the tags come in a wide variety of form factors. The most useful devices for hospitals and medical centers are:
- Active patient wristband – All of your patients already have wristbands, so it’s easy to make them smart and enable live patient tracking along with historical locations
- Clinical staff active badge – There was a time when an employee’s badge was used only for identification purposes. Over time, they came to be used with magnetic strips for time management. BLE-enabled badges let you not only automate clocking in and out but give you location insights so that you know with which patients a nurse / doctor has interacted to further decrease the spread of disease and quickly act in case a nurse / doctor has been affected by a virus.
Conclusion about healthcare location services
As a leader in real-time location tracking services, Kontakt.io offers BLE tags in a number of form factors for visitor, staff, patient, and asset tracking as well as a software application that will allow your staff to access the tracking data from any internet-enabled device. Contact us today to see how location services can help ER staff members during triage crisis situations in your hospital.