Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response – RTLS Can Assist

Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response – RTLS Can Assist

by Scott Hondros, VP of Client Success at Infinite Leap

Live in the Southeastern United States? If so, I am sure you would agree the past few months have been far too active from a hurricane standpoint.  Growing up and living in North Carolina, hurricanes are unfortunately the cost of living in such an amazing area of the country. Unlike my friends and family, the healthcare organizations that I partner with are not able to evacuate. These organizations provide critical care when communities need them most and at a time when they are faced with their own staffing constraints. Having visibility into where patients, staff, and critical assets are located is crucial anytime, but even more so during and following an emergency. Knowing the medications clinicians are providing were not exposed to adverse temperatures due to a power outage is also a non-negotiable. My clients are able to focus on patient care by utilizing their existing Real-Time Location System (RTLS) during an emergency or natural disaster.

WHERE IS EVERYONE?

During an emergency and in the days and sometimes weeks that follow, healthcare organizations face significant operational challenges. When an event takes place, hospitals are overwhelmed with patients. There is confusion among staff at all levels and job descriptions about where they need to be. Providing staff with RTLS badges allows for staff to view the location of their colleagues in real-time. Emergency Management personnel in the command center are able to view what is happening at the enterprise level and move critical resources to areas where they are needed within the organization.

Staff are also able to “do more with less” by using RTLS to view the location of their patients anywhere within the organization. One of my good friends Mary Jagim shares this best:

“RTLS solutions can provide a cost-effective tool for use in emergency preparedness situations when used to identify the entry and exit of patients from specific areas as well as, locate staff. A solution like this makes a really horrible time a little bit easier for everyone, as I can’t imagine anything worse than a family member trying to find someone involved in a mass casualty event and not being able to do so because no one knows where they are.”

Mary Jagim, MS, RN, CEN, FAEN
Past President of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA)

2) IS THIS MEDICATION OK?

Power outages and WiFi disruption go hand in hand with a natural disaster. The majority of medical facilities have capable backup generators, however the offsite clinics and pharmacies often do not. The temperature monitoring hardware we deploy operates on a small high powered battery. These temperature tags continue to capture and record the temperature every 10 minutes until power is fully restored. Pharmacy, Clinical leadership, and Compliance are then able to view the full range of temperatures that the medication, food, lab specimens, or vaccines were exposed to and make determination on the use or disposal of these products. Several years ago, this exact scenario played out at one of my clients.

“We’d just received a shipment of 6,000 doses of flu vaccine. The fridge they were stored in went bad, but due to our temperature monitoring solution we were able to provide the vaccine manufacturers with detailed statistics of storage temperatures and durations.  With this information they verified that no harm was done, and the vaccines could be used, saving more than $90,000 in vaccine and allowing us to vaccinate our community as planned.”

3)  EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT & EPIDEMIOLOGY TOOL

Not all emergency events are weather related as we saw several years ago with the Ebola crisis. Leveraging the RTLS technology has allowed for our clients to incorporate this powerful technology into the toolbox of Emergency Management & Epidemiology Departments. With assistance of real-time locations technologies and an automatically generated contact tracking report, you can identify patients who were exposed and need to get required medication fast to avoid a potentially fatal condition. Contact tracking also helps identify patients who were not exposed and who could otherwise experience adverse effects of a  medication regimen. RTLS will eliminate the unnecessary administration of medication.

“In a simulated exercise evaluating a typical short ED visit, we identified 23 staff from 17 different departments, including nurses, technicians, paramedics, and others. The hospital can then take whatever steps are necessary to minimize spread of the infection, including quarantining, immunizing, and/or inoculating staff and sterilizing potentially contaminated equipment.”

Kathi Cox, Senior Vice President, Integrated Experience

If your organization has recently experienced an emergency or adverse weather event and is interested in how RTLS can assist in the future – lets’ talk. We’d love to share what we’ve seen (good and bad) at other organizations, and help illuminate the benefits of using real-time technologies to make the transition as effective as possible.

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