By Claire Swedberg
Feb. 28, 2012—The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals National Health Service (NHS) Trust
, located in England, is employing real-time location system (RTLS
) software provided by Awarepoint
to manage three different functions throughout its facility: tracking the movements of patients and staff members, managing the locations of tagged assets, and ensuring hand-hygiene compliance. The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals is utilizing CenTrak
's RTLS hardware, consisting of RFID
-infrared (IR) battery-powered tags, RFID-IR monitors (readers), "Virtual Wall monitors" (which function as tag readers but have a tightly defined read zone, thereby providing greater location granularity) and network access points. The system also includes software from Awarepoint's RTLS platform, known as the aware360°Suite, to store and manage data culled from the tag reads. Based on the proven functionality of this installation, the company reports, the aware360°Suite platform was commercially released at last week's HIMSS12
The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals, an 800-bed facility, has completed the first phase of its RTLS deployment, consisting of using the CenTrak tags to track 550 patients simultaneously within 21 wards, with plans to add several additional wards and 250 more patient beds later this year. The hospital declined to comment for this story.
Britain's NHS oversees hospitals throughout the country—a total of 168 different trusts, each representing a particular region of the United Kingdom. The agency has been seeking RTLS technology to improve patient flow and track assets and hand-washing compliance, and wanted a single platform that could accomplish all three objectives. NHS approached Awarepoint—which offers software for each of those applications—and requested a single solution on which all data could be managed and integrated with the hospital's existing software, using RTLS tags and readers, as well as CenTrak display screens. NHS selected The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals as the first hospital trust in which to install the solution. The facility—which is more than a century old and includes 38 buildings on one campus—serves approximately 880,000 patients annually.
For phase one of the installation, the hospital trust wanted a system that could track patients as they are registered, moved through various wards and then discharged. By tracking where patients have been, the facility could then better direct staff members as to which services each patient requires next—for example, if he or she has been to radiology, the software could then inform workers where that patient needs to be moved to next. The system needed to track employees as well, says Tony Marsico, Awarepoint's executive VP of global business development, so that managers could know which patients a nurse or clinician had visited, as well as where and for how long, thereby providing greater visibility into which services the patients were receiving.
The system also includes the ability to track hand hygiene, with CenTrak RFID-IR readers and Virtual Wall monitors installed near hand-washing stations. When a staff member approaches a station and presses the dispenser, that action is linked to the individual's unique ID number, and is then stored in the software. If the worker approaches a new patient after seeing another one, without first washing his or her hands, the system will record that incident, and management can later use that information to provide further training to those staff members who need it.
Initially, Awarepoint conducted an analysis of the hospital trust's workflow, and then created a map of that workflow in the software—with such requirements as where patients should report for specific treatment, and which event follows another. The software was then customized to provide information or alerts to employees responsible for specific patients. If a patient waits for too long in one location, for example, an alert can be issued to warn the parties responsible for providing care to that individual.
With the system in place, each patient is provided with a CenTrak wristband tag
. Initially, the wristband tags were provided only to those suffering from dementia; now, 550 patients have such wristbands at any given time. Each battery-powered tag transmits a unique ID number via an ultrahigh-frequency
transmission, and also emits an IR signal. The tags' signals are received by the readers (consisting of approximately 500 CenTrak IT-313 battery-powered monitors, and 2,000 CenTrak IT-323 Virtual Wall battery-powered monitors). CenTrak power-over-Ethernet Star (IT-103) access points capture data via UHF RFID signals transmitted by the tags and the IT-313 and IT-323 units, and forward that information via a wired connection to the back-end system, where data is then managed by the Awarepoint software. Some of the 5,000 staff members are wearing CenTrak badges, Marsico says, while all are expected to wear them eventually.
The number of tags in use at the facility has increased incrementally, The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals reports. In the meantime, the hospital trust is preparing to install an asset-management solution on the same platform. In this case, various assets—such as infusion pumps and wheelchairs—will have a CenTrak RFID tag
affixed to them, which will transmit a unique ID number linked to that specific item in the Awarepoint software.
NHS' goal, Marsico says, is to reduce the amount of time that patients spend awaiting treatment, by using the RTLS
data to improve workflow. The hospital hopes to also reduce equipment costs, by gaining visibility into the locations of existing items so that workers can more easily locate them. Finally, he says, The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals seeks to reduce the rate of infection based on employees' failure to wash hands, by utilizing the Awarepoint data to identify and address cases in which hands are not being washed as recommended, before and after each patient visit.
Since the system's installation, Awarepoint announced last week that the aware360°Suite is commercially available for hospitals globally, and comes with both software and hardware, including Awarepoint's battery-powered ZigBee
-based RFID tags that are attached to equipment, or worn by patients and personnel. The solution includes modules for tracking the locations and temperatures of assets and supplies, managing the sterilization of instruments, facilitating patient flow, locating staff members, promoting hand-hygiene compliance and improving workflow within a site's emergency, radiology and surgical departments. The company is currently in discussions with several hospitals in North America, as well as NHS, regarding future aware360°Suite installations.