RTLS Assisted Healthcare Facilities Throughout COVID, Here’s How It Can Help Now

Updated on August 23, 2022

By Scott Hondros MHA, SCPM

The pandemic has caused significant disruption throughout the last two years, and due to the immediacy of care needs, the digitization of healthcare has rapidly accelerated. We have all seen demand constantly outpace the supply for crucial medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE), and facilities nationwide have been struggling to maintain clinical operations with reduced staff. Throughout the various stages of the pandemic, the circumstances have led many organizations to rapidly implement innovative digital solutions to improve patient care, locate critical mobile medical equipment (MME), staff satisfaction, and staffing shortages.

COVID-19, similar to other historic global events, accelerated innovation in how patients receive and consume care, as well as the overall strategy to healthcare operations. The greatest examples of these evolving technologies are contactless care, digital wayfinding, and telemedicine. Healthcare facilities have also increasingly deployed Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) to meet ever-changing needs in a financially responsible manner. 

Healthcare leaders must consider the additional investments necessary to optimize and support the existing workforce. As costs are scrutinized more, facility decision-makers can implement RTLS solutions that meet the organization’s budgets and needs with strong transparent ROI being achieved, documented, and communicated. By installing or expanding an existing RTLS infrastructure, facilities will have the ability to implement multiple use cases specific to reducing major pain points resulting from supply challenges, safety concerns, and staff shortages.

Reducing Equipment Costs in Healthcare Facilities 

Supply chain issues have significantly impacted each aspect of healthcare, especially the specialized clinical equipment used to deliver patient care.It’s crucial for clinicians to have all mobile medical equipment in stock, cleaned, and available in the right location at the right time to provide timely and safe care. 

Healthcare facilities who implement RTLS deployments have seen an immediate improvement to support resource-constrained staff and benefit workflow by incorporating asset visibility, management, and overall process optimization. This offering provides real-time room and bay-level map views and intel to improve asset utilization, orders, and rentals. By incorporating or expanding the system to include asset visibility, workflows become even more streamlined as caregivers and ancillary clinical operations staff have a fast and accurate asset search tool at their fingertips. Hospitals have measured more than a 50% increase in staff satisfaction following the implementation of a real-time asset management solution.

After the deployment of RTLS asset monitoring, hospitals have experienced thousands of hours reallocated back to patient care, significant reductions in asset purchase requests, increased equipment supply data accuracy, increased staff satisfaction, and a quantifiable and documented increase in both soft and hard dollar savings. At Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the use of RTLS asset management provides an annual savings of ~$2 million. Additionally, healthcare facilities can easily enhance their existing solution to include automated PAR-level management and rental modules to inform operations teams of orders so they can efficiently manage rental equipment post-patient use to reduce excess rental charges. An investment in a solution such as real-time asset management allows facilities to improve the patient experience, better support their healthcare professionals, and reduce costs. 

Support Staff with Duress Alerting and Safety Measures

Violence against healthcare professionals has surged since the start of the pandemic, and some hospitals have experienced more than a 50% increase in dangerous incidents. In response to these growing threats, an RTLS safety solution is a way to protect staff 24/7 and can be installed or easily added to any existing RTLS such as automated nurse call via a simple software add-on. This reliable duress alert system prevents threats from escalating into violent situations by giving healthcare professionals the ability to discreetly send panic alerts to the security team from an easy access button on their wearable badge. 

Providing peace of mind and real-time emergency response, the alert immediately and accurately communicates the exact location of the person in duress to the security team via a dedicated network. ​​Increasing response times to prevent staff injury not only creates a better and safer work environment, but it also reduces the number of lost workdays which would put further strain on other staff members. Staff appreciate their organization leadership placing an emphasis on their safety and investing in solutions such as this. 

To remain compliant with the newly updated Joint Commission workplace violence prevention standards, RTLS technology provides automated approaches to conduct annual worksite violence analyses, establish processes to monitor and accurately report workplace violence, and educate on de-escalation and intervention tactics. By leveraging the robust automated reporting tools provided by RTLS, teams can proactively address this issue and reduce incidents. As workplace violence is still on the rise, healthcare professionals need these solutions now more than ever.

Automate Your Workflow for Greater Satisfaction

In addition to growing workplace violence, staffing shortages remain a primary concern and a driving force behind many recent RTLS implementations. Facilities seek to support and enable healthcare professionals to operate at “the top of their license” and reallocate time to patient care. When RTLS is properly implemented, it enables healthcare organizations to analyze data to find opportunities for improvement, like shortening patient wait time, reducing bottlenecks, and increasing hand-hygiene compliance, as well as automating workflows, like biomed reprocessing and nurse call response.

By automating clinical workflow, caregivers gain more time back with their patients, while eliminating non-value-added tasks like searching for an infusion pump or manually documenting medication fridge temperatures. With RTLS, providers do not need to ask where their patients are in the care process, search rooms, or wait for status updates to be manually entered into the system. If an end-to-end clinical workflow solution is implemented, healthcare facilities gain locating infrastructure, a variety of purpose-built asset tags, patient and staff badges, easy-to-use software tools for real-time map views, reports, and alerts, as well as expert clinical and operational consulting services. 

The typical healthcare encounter consists of many clinical milestones. Automating these events alleviates the burden of manual documentation, which leads to highly inefficient or inaccurate communications. Providing accurate real-time information regarding case status, patient location, and departmental work queues offers enhanced visibility to the entire care team as well as meaningful data for future analysis. These process improvements increase the satisfaction of both the patient and staff and keeps the facility running efficiently.

Healthcare Facilities Shouldn’t Wait to Launch RTLS

Healthcare within the United States are at a critical crossroads as organizations evaluate ways to be more efficient with fewer resources and supplies. The first step to remedying these concerns is to properly identify the major pain points impacting healthcare facilities. Once identified though, don’t simply implement a standalone solution. Seek an end-to-end strategic partner that offers a comprehensive suite of solutions and make it easier to expand the system over time to other aspects of facility operations. 

For many healthcare facilities, after seeing the insight provided by RTLS and experiencing a meaningful return on the initial investment, leadership and facility managers are encouraged to leverage their existing RTLS investment further for more advanced use cases. To ensure ongoing success, find a strategic RTLS partner that will provide continued support for the organization, develop a well-defined and transparent business model, and offer additional solutions for expansion. An early investment in the right strategic partner allows leadership to improve the existing system infrastructure to better support healthcare professionals and their patients for years to come.

Scott Hondros is the Vice President of Professional Services at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. For more information, visit www.centrak.com.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.