Why It’s So Important to Use Proper Naming Conventions When Deploying an RTLS System

by Scott Hondros, Senior VP of Professional Services at Infinite Leap

When we work with different healthcare organizations implementing Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) for asset locating and asset management purposes, one thing remains constant – the importance of establishing a consistent and understandable naming convention within the RTLS system.

Unfortunately, many organizations rush quickly into the implementation process, and without the guidance of an experienced RTLS solution provider, they skip over this important step. As result, the organizations struggle after the system is live and get minimal use out of their RTLS investment.

To avoid limiting the usefulness and ultimately the value of your RTLS solution, we strongly recommend having a common and agreed to understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish.

For example:

Equipment Class
In the world of RTLS, equipment is defined by what is called the Equipment Class – Pumps or Transport Equipment are examples of Equipment Classes. Classes are then broken down further into Equipment Types – for example, Infusion Pump, Syringe Pump, and Feeding Pump are all equipment types that would fall under the Pump Class. The Transport Equipment Class would consist of wheelchairs of various types, stretchers, beds, etc. Defining these “Classes” of equipment provide a high-level way to see all similar equipment types in a single, easy to remember way.

Naming Convention
Items within any RTLS solution need to be configured so they can be sorted, reported on, and located with ease. When working with our clients during the initial implementation of the RTLS system, we establish a standard format to be used for any equipment that is “tagged” or placed into the solution. The standard format may differ from client to client, but it must remain 100% consistent within each client to realize the full value of the system.

For example, the first part of the Asset Name might be the “Equipment Type” referenced above, then a space, a dash, another space, then the Clinical Engineering unique identifier. A practical example might be that an Alaris pump would be entered as: Syringe Pump – 4120000964.

This same basic structure can be used for Bili Lights, Workstations on Wheels, or any other equipment type.

While we’ve certainly seen standards that seem to work better than others, there is no magic pill that must be used by every hospital, as long as it is consistent and adhered to across the entire organization.

Another consideration is to create a structure that is visually appealing and delivers the relevant information in an easy to understand manner. By doing this, you allow for efficient searches and easy locating by staff.

Finally, a standard and well thought out structure allows for an easy way to add new classes and types as the system grows, without having to redo previous naming conventions.

The result of not taking the time upfront to consider the importance of this task will have impacts you might never have considered. At the best it can be time-consuming to fix, and at worst you can erode the trust of the staff and impede the usefulness of the system to the point of reducing its use and value.

If you are one of the organizations who didn’t take the time to work through this step during your installation, you already understand the pain it can cause. If you are just getting started, please don’t disregard this step. The efforts will pay dividends.