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Real-Time Location Services: The Next Tool for Hospitals?

Betsy AI May 24, 2023 3:00:00 PM
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Article edited by Rose Watson. 

Hospitals are hunting for new ways to boost efficiency on their floors. Among new communications platforms, reporting software, and AI tools, real-time location services (RTLS) are being investigated as a new method for resource management. But what does that look like in a hospital?  

Real-time location services are systems that use wireless technology to track the location and movement of people and objects in real time. This, of course, means knowing where medical devices are being used in real-time, but RTLS can do so much more than that when implemented creatively. Think about automated workflows that could run autonomously as soon as a particular person or item is placed in a room. RTLS can help hospitals improve their efficiency, quality, and safety by providing accurate and timely information on the availability and utilization of resources such as beds, equipment, staff, and patients. 

The basic use for RTLS is to track where resources are within a hospital. These resources can be traditional like diagnostic tools and equipment, but RTLS can also identify staff members or patients themselves. This opens the door for automation and analytics that can significantly improve how different teams work together.  

Bed management is a perfect example of how RTLS can create new efficiency in a hospital. Bed management is the process of assigning patients to appropriate beds based on their clinical needs, preferences, and availability of resources. Bed management is crucial for ensuring patient satisfaction, reducing wait times, preventing overcrowding, and maximizing revenue. However, bed management can be challenging due to the complexity and variability of patient flow and resource availability. For example, hospitals may face difficulties in: 

  • Identifying which beds are occupied, vacant, or ready for cleaning 
  • Locating patients who are waiting for admission, discharge, or transfer 
  • Coordinating the activities of staff involved in bed management such as nurses, housekeepers, transporters, and admission coordinators 
  • Communicating the status of beds and patients to relevant stakeholders such as physicians, managers, and administrators 

RTLS can help overcome these challenges by providing real-time visibility into the location and status of beds and patients. For instance, RTLS can: 

  • Automatically update the bed status when a patient is admitted, discharged, or transferred 
  • Alert staff when a bed is ready for cleaning or occupancy 
  • Monitor the time spent by patients in different areas such as the emergency department, operating room, or recovery room 
  • Track the location and movement of staff involved in bed management 
  • Generate reports and dashboards on key performance indicators such as bed occupancy rate, bed turnover rate, patient throughput, and length of stay 

By using RTLS, hospitals can expedite their bed turnover process, reduce their bed turnaround time, increase their bed capacity, and improve their patient flow. This can lead to enhanced patient satisfaction, reduced operational costs, increased revenue, and improved quality of care. 

RTLS is not only a tool for asset management but also a solution for improving hospital performance. By leveraging RTLS technology, hospitals can transform their bed management process and achieve better outcomes for their patients and staff. What else could RTLS do for hospitals?