Hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the world are embracing Real-Time Location System (RTLS) as a means of tracking both assets and people with impressive results including improved standards of patient care and reduced equipment and operating costs.

With RTLS in place, assets such as medical devices, available hospital beds, and pharmaceutical supplies can be tracked in real-time to ensure they are positioned exactly where required. The same tech platform can also track patients and staff, leading to better security and higher productivity outputs.

What is RTLS?

In simple terms, an RTLS is a technology platform that allows for real-time tracking of targeted assets or individuals within a defined area. Items of interest are given ID tags or badges that transmit a wireless signal coded with a unique ID. Sensors receive the signals and can then identify where a tagged asset or person is located.

This can be particularly useful when locating medical equipment or identifying personnel near an emergency. Tags can be either active or passive, depending on what function they need to perform, and can operate via Bluetooth, infrared, or similarly low-cost platforms. When greater precision is required, more expensive systems such as Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) become a more viable option.

Immediate benefits of RTLS

Cost-saving benefits can be immediately realised through the tracking of medical equipment. Most hospitals own or rent more equipment than required so that staff can locate the item when needed. This inefficiency can be remedied with RTLS. Other benefits include:

  • Enhanced workflows as patients move more efficiently from waiting rooms to exam rooms to patient rooms.
  • Improved patient outcomes when clinical staff can locate necessary equipment faster to proceed with treatment.
  • Superior asset management and preventive maintenance.
  • Greater bed and room utilisation as staff can track real-time patient movement through departments.

What are the use cases?

Here are some key use cases that highlight the versatility of RTLS in improving operational efficiency, patient safety, and the overall quality of care in healthcare environments.

  • Bed availability monitoring
    During busy periods, carefully managing the availability of beds is vital. RTLS can assist in locating unused beds to provide a more accurate picture. When a patient is discharged, the bed availability can be instantly recorded, and that information seen by all frontline staff. In some instances, this can help achieve up to 50% faster bed turnover times.
  • Tracking medical equipment
    Portable medical devices such as ICU ventilators, IV pumps, and defibrillators can be tracked using RTLS to ensure their availability when and where they are required. Often, such items can sit idle in one place when they are needed elsewhere. Tracking allows staff to solve this issue. This can solve the issue of hoarding, which often occurs when staff members have trouble finding critical pieces of equipment during emergencies. Hoarding contributes to wasteful expenditure that negatively impacts a hospital’s bottom line. Frontline staff will spend less time hunting for equipment, positively impacting morale, efficiency, and patient outcomes.
  • Reducing hospital acquired infection risks
    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical necessity of being able to identify people who have come into proximity with patients who have communicable infections. RTLS makes such contact tracing far easier than traditional methods. RTLS can also drive handwashing discipline by monitoring when staff members have approached a hygiene station, another tool in the fight against infectious diseases.
  • Heightened security
    RTLS enables alerts when patients or staff members enter inappropriate areas. Patients who are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, or are suffering from some type of mental distress, would normally demand close supervision to ensure they remain within a set location. With RTLS in place, alerts can be raised if such patients cross a virtual boundary into an area where they may pose a risk to others. This lifts the burden on frontline staff and helps security personnel to better manage such potential threats.

Powerful tool

Hospitals are still uncovering the many benefits of human and asset monitoring via RTLS. Cost savings can be unlocked, precious time saved, staff can be better allocated, bed availability more readily recorded, equipment levels more optimally maintained, and security improved. In the hustle of busy healthcare settings, RTLS can provide a powerful and lifesaving tool with a range of advantages that cannot be ignored.

Ready to take the next step?

The decision to implement RTLS should be carefully considered and only entrusted to a proven and trusted technology provider. At Connected Health our experts can assist your RTLS journey to ensure it proves a resounding success and delivers on the promise of this simple yet revolutionary technology solution. Contact us for a demo or proof of concept.