What Leaders in Information Technology Need to Know about RTLS

by Toby Boyett, MHA, FHIMSS, CPHIMS – VP of Professional Services, Infinite Leap

CIOs play an important role in the acquisition and support of any Real-Time Locating Services (RTLS) program in healthcare. In my past experience, as an IS Divisional leader for a large medical research center, I have seen how a CIO’s endorsement of the technology can mean so much for internal customers wanting to leverage RTLS to manage their operations. For this reason, CIOs, as well as other leaders within Information Services, should have a basic understanding of RTLS and the use cases this technology can support in healthcare.

RTLS is a location-based framework made up of many different technologies for the purposes of locating and monitoring things in real time. For a brief dive into the various technologies leveraged for RTLS in healthcare, click here for a blog entry written by John Swart, our VP of Solutions. It is a great start for any IS leader wanting to begin educating themselves on this growing technology in healthcare.

RTLS Systems are Incredibly Useful Tools

In addition to being informed about the technology itself, a CIO also needs to understand that RTLS systems, if implemented correctly and monitored appropriately, add unique value to healthcare organizations like no other technology or manual process can.

RTLS is leveraged to find assets, track their usage, and manage inventory levels to support operations and eliminate waste. RTLS Environmental Monitoring technologies assist in preventing loss/spoilage of valuable inventory such as refrigerated drugs, blood products, and frozen human embryos by eliminating the need for routine physical inspection of refrigerator or freezer health by highly paid clinical staff, and by providing proactive alerts to staff members letting them know there may be a problem with the refrigeration unit itself. RTLS is also used to monitor clinical activity to keep clinical staff safe, assist in the reduction of patient wait times, and provide visibility into clinical space, literally behind closed doors.

RTLS Technology Should Not Be Underestimated

If you think you already know what RTLS is and what it can do, I would ask that you dig a little deeper into some of the use cases described above and consider how far RTLS has come in the last 5-10 years.

RTLS infrastructure is highly sophisticated and capable of room-level accuracy useful for monitoring and gathering important contextual time points necessary to change the way your hospital operates. RTLS is a segment of the healthcare industry where real innovation and real change is happening, enabling hospitals to be more efficient with the resources they have, positively affecting the bottom line.

Here Is How YOU Can Help

  1. Familiarize yourself with the benefits and usefulness of RTLS-based technologies in healthcare – including areas such as clinical operations, patient transportation, clinical engineering, research labs, and pharmacy.
  2. Empower your team to engage with clinical and non-clinical customers interested in leveraging RTLS to improve the way they do their business.
  3. Be a champion of the technology yourself. Yes, there are competing initiatives fighting for funding dollars in your organization. Knowing how RTLS technology can be used to improve processes and drive efficiencies is an investment worth making. Your support is critical to making a difference on the front lines of patient care.

Please reach out to me if you would like to learn more about this technology and what you should know to successfully support it in your organization.

2 Responses
  1. ruth

    Does the software exist to track pt’s themselves as they travel through the hospital- and correlate that with nosocomial infections? How do average people respond to the idea of being tracked in this way?
    FYI- On our labor/delivery/postpartum unit RTLS technology is being used to keep babies safer and matched with their mom.- I have yet to have a parent express concern about this.

    1. IL Admin

      Ruth – thank you for your comment. We are glad to hear that your hospital is using RTLS for infant protection. In regard to your question – yes, RTLS patient flow software can be used to track patient location. This information can help with reducing the spread of infectious diseases by understanding who (and what) was in contact with the infected patient. One of our colleagues at Infinite Leap ran the Infection Prevention program at a nationally recognized academic medical center and healthcare system and has some great examples of how RTLS could advance this cause.

      Your question about how people feel about “being tracked” is very valid and something that needs to be considered and planned for. When it is done properly, not only do patients accept it–they are excited about it. Throughout our years of consulting practice, we have developed a process that communicates the value to patients, staff, and visitors in a positive way that helps them realize it is really all about making sure they have a better experience and better care results.

      Our healthcare clients use RTLS to help them understand patient wait times, for example, in a clinic environment, or to trigger automated messages to patients’ family members updating them on patient status e.g. when they’re in the OR suite. There are so many benefits for both patients and staff to wear location badges that we see an increasing number of healthcare systems implementing RTLS technology. Especially now, with an increase in violence in healthcare facilities, staff are demanding better protection for themselves and RTLS can help by providing location information of the staff member in a distress situation.

      Please reach out to us with any questions.