January 17, 2024 | 8 minute

The Top 10 RTLS Questions Biomeds Should Ask in 2024

RTLS finds medical equipment in treatment room
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Unlike a factory or warehouse with a limited and defined purpose (and the on-hand assets to match), hospitals have to be ready for whatever comes through the door. That means diagnostic equipment, simple hygienic supplies, hyper-specialized machinery, devices that are rarely used but must be accessible 24/7, and much more. Hospitals have to be equipped for contingencies, but that’s just the beginning of the problem of keeping all these assets organized and properly accounted for.

Biomeds who are responsible for maintaining medical devices usually have to manually search for them, sometimes losing hours of productivity in a single workday. The benefits of an RTLS asset management system are clear.

A typical 200-bed hospital can save over $2 million dollars annually in wasteful medical device related costs using IoT-powered, real-time locating system (RTLS) solutions. But can you best evaluate different RTLS solutions? And with continued advancements in technology and the evolution of patient care, what are the right questions to ask right now?

Here are the top 10 questions that can uncover valuable information for biomeds in the shifting world of RTLS. Because if you want a proper answer, you have to know what questions to ask.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of different RTLS technologies like Active vs. Passive?

There are two fundamentally different types of real-time location systems (RTLS): active and passive. Active tags, using Bluetooth, are battery-powered while passive tags do not have a built-in power source. While active tags are generally more expensive than passive tags, they offer more functionality and can serve multiple use cases simultaneously. With active tags, you can track assets and people, reduce rentals, avoid loss at key egress points, manage hand sanitation compliance, and more – all at the same time with the same technology.

How can I ensure that my RTLS system is compatible with my existing IT infrastructure?

Ensure that your RTLS solution is open, simple, and available. You should have full access to everything. Plus, the RTLS technology should be continuously evolving with advancements of IT and technology. Not only should your RTLS solution work right out of the box – and seamlessly integrate with your current infrastructure – but you should feel confident that this solution will be adaptable, scalable, and easily upgraded with the latest advancements in relevant technologies.

How can I future-proof my RTLS investment?

When it comes to the future with an RTLS solution, it’s all about scalability. If you can scale your solution easily and quickly, you should be able to handle any use cases today and in the future. If you want to add more devices, expand your infrastructure, or widen your network, what would that look like for your RTLS solution? Will there be additional costs? If you begin with one use case, say asset management, can you easily expand to additional use cases like staff safety or patient experience? Each additional use case should ride on top of the initial infrastructure investment. That baseline infrastructure should allow and support growth. If you can scale your solution easily and quickly, you should be able to handle any use cases today and in the future.

How can I minimize disruption to my operations during the implementation of an RTLS system?

A common mistake vendors make when implementing a new RTLS system is putting lots of people onsite for deployment. It’s usually done in the name of speed, but it’s rarely efficient and often disruptive. It’s important to find the balance – speed but not invasive.

Proper communication is key. Letting staff know ahead of time about when and how implementation will occur is critical. Stakeholders will want frequent and rapid data-driven updates. And with IT teams, early notice is best to get into their busy but organized workload. When all of this is coordinated and communicated, implementation will be quick, quiet, and without disruption.

How can I integrate RTLS data with my existing healthcare information systems?

Integration should be simple and easy. While this will take coordination with the IT department, they should be able to schedule the work that needs to be done, and it should be able to be done quickly. Taking data from one system and integrating through open APIs should be fast and easy, and if it’s not, that’s a red flag. With access to open API information, IT teams can get most things done even without a conversation.

What is going to be most helpful, before integrating, is that you need to have a clear definition of the problems that you are trying to solve, the outcomes that you want, and the positive impact those outcomes will generate. Furthermore, being able to benchmark where you are at the beginning, pre-RTLS, and then at the end, and ongoing, post-RTLS, is super important to measure.

What level of training is recommended for healthcare staff using RTLS technology?

Of course, the level and frequency of education will vary based on the roles and use cases, but gone are the days of quick rounds of “training the trainer” and hoping for the best. There’s a difference between training and ongoing education. RTLS technology is evolving and the best solutions today are dynamic. If your provider is keeping up with modern tech and making it easy to integrate with IT, utilizing open APIs, offering plug and play products, evolving, adapting – while they continue to educate themselves, they will also continue to educate their customers.

Furthermore, in certain areas, there may be a high level of staff turnover, with new people who need to get caught up to speed as quickly as possible. An agreed-upon cadence with regular touch points with key customer stakeholders is the new norm and the best RTLS solutions will provide this level of continuous education.

What are the typical challenges of implementing an RTLS system in a healthcare setting?

Every implementation is unique and offers its own unique challenges, but the best RTLS providers will be prepared and adaptive. The RTLS implementation team needs to be fully aware of how they can navigate swiftly and least invasively. Every hospital has some type of change project going on, new construction, or reconstruction. Often, floorplan maps are outdated and extra time needs to be put in to ensure locations are all aligned. Every implementation is unique and offers its own unique challenges, but the best RTLS providers will be prepared and adaptive.

Cloud-based software and integrated mobile installer tools make all these types of challenges go away – with a couple of clicks, changes can be made such as the shape of a room or the name of a room. Also, a software as a service model (SaaS), like with, helps because CapEx isn’t required, the SaaS is all an operational expense. Also, with a solution that is fast, easy, and scalable, there won’t be months of expensive cable pulling and then system tuning and more.

What are the common KPIs for an RTLS system in a healthcare setting?

When you’re going into an RTLS project, it is important to understand the problems you are trying to solve and measure the baseline of the current state. From a biomed viewpoint, you may be charged with reducing rentals, for example. A baseline for rentals should be fairly straightforward to measure on day one and then monitor monthly. Get the initial baseline and then monitor the results against that.

From a nurse’s perspective, a baseline could be how much time nurses spend each day searching for equipment. Then, implementing an RTLS solution that ensures that all of your assets are in the right place at the right time in the right condition will not only reduce that very measurable search time, but it will also boost nursing productivity as well as overall satisfaction, all of which increases the quality of care.

What can I do to make sure my team uses RTLS in the long term?

Leaning into continued education is the best approach to long-term utilization. Your team needs to know how the RTLS solution works and why it’s important. Like any technology, an RTLS solution will only work when combined with people and processes.

Setting a clear vision and path towards a roadmap of identified problems that can be solved over an appropriate time frame is an excellent way to gain long-term usage, understanding, and commitment from your team. And be sure to properly document and measure as you go. And share the results with your team. A proper RTLS solution will deliver results. And results, when celebrated, will keep your team engaged.

How much battery maintenance and general infrastructure upkeep is necessary post go-live?

Given where we are with technology, batteries should not have to be monitored or swapped out. That’s a horrible task. Batteries can and should last the lifetime of a contract. Then, with a contract renewal, you get new batteries. It’s important to note that BLE, by nature of its name, Bluetooth low energy, has excellent fuel consumption as opposed to similar technologies.

When it comes to maintenance, the top RTLS solutions will utilize device health dashboards and notifications so that staff can easily work on any necessary maintenance along with other activities during their working day. After all, it’s meant to make work easier, not harder.