Following the implementation of campus wide Wi-Fi at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) for accessing patient data, the Trust decided to explore further uses for the network. NUTH decided to implement a Real Time Location System (RTLS) to aid the locating of specialist medical equipment and required a solution that could operate via the exiting Wi-Fi network, without installing any additional equipment. The ANT Telecom RTLS solution appealed to NUTH due to the ease of implementation and potential time savings.
Bob Beckwith, Data and Telecoms Manager, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust comments:
"The ease with which the ANT Telecom RTLS solution integrated with our current network meant there was very little work to do. We could simply attach the tags to the medical devices and get started with minimal disruption."
He adds: "Getting the solution ready for use was relatively straight forward, the challenge was introducing it to staff for use in clinical environments."
That is where the support of ANT Telecom was used; they talked to staff within multiple directorates to establish what their requirements were. This End User focused approach ensured that the needs of the business were met."
NUTH initially implemented RTLS within the EME Services Department on pieces of specialist mobile equipment that are used throughout the hospital sites, to allow better management of the assets by aiding the location of the equipment for both use, maintenance and for auditing purposes.
Jeff Stephenson, EME Services Officer, Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust comments, "By combining the RFID tagging solution with the 100% wireless network coverage over our two main sites, we can now identify where equipment, assets or patients are throughout the hospital within a two to three metre accuracy."
Jeff Stephenson adds, "The basic principle of the asset tracking solution or RTLS solution is delivering a number of benefits; one is resource efficiency from a maintenance perspective, in terms of locating an item when maintenance is due."
"Previously, medical devices could be anywhere within 80 wards or 50 operating theatres; they can now be accurately tracked on the computer before we leave the department to collect them, saving technicians valuable time."
"We have also created a virtual equipment library that allows staff to locate specialist equipment 24/7. Previously, staff would have had to contact each ward to see if the equipment was there and if it was in use, which was neither an effective, nor reliable method of tracking the many medical devices we have. Now we can pinpoint the equipment within the hospital and can then contact the particular ward to check its availability."
Following the success of the asset tracking solution, NUTH decided to invest further and work with ANT Telecom to provide tags to both the Neurology Departments for vulnerable patients and also for the patients waiting for appointments within the Oncology Department.
Within the Neurology Department vulnerable patients are given tags that support the physical security measures already in place at the Trust, by allowing hospital staff to monitor the patient’s location if they leave the ward, increasing patient safety.
Bob Beckwith comments, "Previously we had concentrated on the more physical safeguards such as locking door systems and access control into the wards. The tags enhance this to provide site wide visibility."
The Oncology Department implemented the tags as a means of improving the patient experience by notifying patients when their appointment is, allowing them to move freely around the hospital as opposed to being restricted to the waiting room.
Beckwith comments, "Patients in other departments have been given tags that vibrated at their appointment time but the solution was limited as it was restricted to a limited physical area. If patients had left the waiting room we could not locate them. However, now as the Wi-Fi network is hospital wide, they can move freely and we can locate them to notify them of their appointment as required."
The Trust has, to date, deployed 500 tags on specific pieces of equipment where there is a need to share or monitor the equipment’s location. The Trust aims to invest in more tags to enable them to track a greater number of medical devices. NUTH is also planning to look into the additional capabilities that the solution has to provide further efficiencies and time savings.
Jeff Stephenson comments "Overall ANT Telecom has been excellent in supporting us. We have great communication with the team and they worked with us to customise the system to our very specific needs."
Jeff Stephenson adds, "One of the functions of the asset tracking solution that we are currently examining is identifying the frequency of asset use."
66Therefore, when requests are made for additional equipment we can assess how urgent or important the request is. We will be able to make informed decisions that will prevent us purchasing unnecessary equipment."
Jeff Stephenson concludes, "Moving forward, there are other benefits that the RTLS tags can be used for in terms of the management of assets - rather than just locating the physical equipment, it could be used as a status update as to whether equipment is cleaned, providing an audit trial of hospital cleaning procedures and also giving staff real time visibility of when equipment is clean and ready for use. These are hugely exciting areas that we are looking forward to exploring with ANT Telecom."