Overcoming Failure – RTLS The Second Time Around

Failed RTLS Implementation

Houston Klassen | Executive Vice-President | Infinite Leap

“Imagine if you could deploy some sort of a system that would allow you to know where everything and everybody in your hospital was, instantly. Imagine what you could do with that type of information.You could revolutionize hospital operations, delivery of care, staffing, reduce costs, and personalize a patient experience to degrees not previously thought possible. It would be amazing!”  -those few sentences are reminiscent of the “pitch” delivered to healthcare executives as real-time location systems (RTLS) started to appear on the market. The result was that early adopters s moved forward with RTLS, understanding that they might hit a few bumps in the road, like with any new technology. However they probably never expected that delivering against the RTLS promise might not be so simple. And while I applaud those who jumped in early (both on the vendor and the provider sides of the equation), unfortunately the fact is that  most of the implementations over the last decade have underperformed against expectations and many have ended up as “wreckage” long left at the side of the road.

Why? Well, in a few cases it can be blamed on a poor technology choice, or a bet on an unproven company that didn’t withstand the test of time. But more so, it was that the appeal of the value of RTLS was not delivered to decision makers along with a true representation of the effort and cost that was involved to do it correctly. Value was overestimated, and projects and the required expertise to be successful were underresourced. When projects started to fail, people fled, many vendors didn’t know how to resolve the issues, and organizations shied away from deploying more complex use cases than asset tracking, like workflow, patient throughput and other optimization projects that would really have made an impact.

It seemed that every hospital had tried, or knew someone who’d tried RTLS, and that the “club of failed implementations” was growing its membership rapidly.

And while there are still organizations that are underestimating the projects in a way that will probably lead to their failure, the great news is that there are now several examples of very successful deployments that have delivered millions of dollars in financial returns and contributed heavily to the improvement of flow and care for patients. These successful projects span the range of the different RTLS technologies, and universally, these organizations that have spent the time to create a long term vision for how real-time technologies can help them address their core strategic objectives are continuing to invest and to benefit from its use.

More encouraging is that the most successful organizations are ones that had some of the most disappointing projects the first time around.  Yet their leadership understood the value and I believe leveraged the learnings they accumulated through the path towards meaningful use and the EMR. They realized that they needed a long term plan, a vision of what they expected, input from all areas of the organization, proper resourcing and that they could learn from the experiences (positive and negative) of others. They didn’t have to be the trailblazer.

At Infinite Leap, we work with hospitals around the world on the use of RTLS to achieve really important healthcare objectives. These organizations have struggled with implementations in the past.  When they learn that they aren’t alone, and that they didn’t necessarily make any bad decisions in their first effort other than being early and not foreseeing the complexity of the project, they become  excited to give it another go. We find that they are eager to continue executing on their vision, and understanding that they don’t have to figure this out all by themselves. They enjoy having people involved that have a history of  successful projects that can help them avoid mistakes so many others made.

So if you still believe, like us, in the value real-time technologies can bring to healthcare, but nervous because you feel a bit burned… keep your chin up and maybe ask for some help! There is a path to a successful second effort, and a road out of the “Failed Implementation Club.”