If You Want Your RTLS Program to Succeed, You Need to Be a Continuous Learner.

This month, our featured RTLS in Healthcare Community member is Oliver Clark, Clinical System Engineer at Tucson Medical Center in Tucson, AZ.

Infinite Leap: Oliver, can you share with us your journey with Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)?

Oliver Clark: My journey with RTLS started in 2003 at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles. That year I was promoted to Clinical Systems Engineer; in this role, I was responsible for clinical engineering and device integration, including projects such as upgrading and integrating the RTLS solution with our nurse call system.

Infinite Leap: How did the RTLS upgrade go?

Oliver Clark: I have to admit that the process of moving to a different technology is never easy. For example, moving to a different RTLS hardware system required installing more RTLS hardware infrastructure and a very close collaboration with our Nursing, Facilities, Telcom, and IT teams. We also learned the hard way that sometimes moving to a new system means taking away some of the functionality staff was accustomed to using. For example, our new system provided us with room-level graduality, which is necessary for any clinical use case, but we lost map view functionality, as our new RTLS system did not have a native user interface. But even with this deficiency, there was such tremendous value enabling the Nurse Call system with real-time location data that the upgrade was well worth it. It provided us with the means to ensure patient rounding was always done on time and it also allowed us to determine which staff were with which patients, when, and for how long. This is a critical piece of information you need when solving any patient experience issues.

Infinite Leap: Did you use the RTLS system for other use cases?

Oliver Clark: Yes, we were using our RTLS system for asset management and we integrated it with our CMMS system. With the RTLS system we could easily find equipment requiring preventive maintenance, and we were also able to reduce our rental costs.

Infinite Leap: Can you explain how you were able to achieve the rental cost reduction?

Oliver Clark: In our hospital, anytime our census level was high, we would call a “hotline” and our rental vendor would bring extra IV pumps or other needed equipment. When the census numbers would go down and we would have enough of our own equipment, we would ask runners to bring the rental equipment to the “dock” area. Our agreement with the rental vendor was that they would stop charging us as soon as their equipment was placed in that designated zone. With the RTLS system, runners knew exactly where the rental equipment was located on the floor so they could retrieve it, plus placing the equipment in the “dock” area triggered a notification to our rental vendor that the equipment was no longer needed and to stop billing for that item.

Infinite Leap: Sounds like a very well-orchestrated process. Can you share with us some advice for hospitals just starting with RTLS?

Oliver Clark: My advice is to start backwards, which in reality is starting from the beginning – define the issues your organization is facing, then evaluate the best way to solve these issues. I see that many organizations are self-prescribing the technology solution, and they are jumping into the selection process of the right RTLS hardware and software, without even knowing if the RTLS solution is the right answer. I am a big advocate for RTLS technology, but first you need to figure out what you are trying to address and how you are going to address it through people, process, AND technology.

Infinite Leap: We find that to be the case as well, which is why we strongly believe organizations should start with the Solution Design process. Oliver – do you have any other advice?

Oliver Clark: One of the surprises many healthcare systems encounter is lack of readiness to operationalize the RTLS program. They put all their attention into hardware and software installation but forget to plan for what happens after the system is live. For example, they don’t figure out what team will be responsible for battery replacement in tags, how will they know a battery needs replacement, and so on. I don’t blame them – if you have not worked with a live RTLS system you don’t even know what is needed to keep the system functioning well. That brings me to another key point – you must have an experienced team to handle day-to-day system maintenance. And you need to know that this type of talent is hard to find and there is not a class that can teach you that. If you want your RTLS program to succeed, you need to be a continuous learner.

Infinite Leap: I completely agree, Oliver. That is why we are using this forum to connect RTLS veterans like you, along with our own RTLS experts, with organizations at the beginning of this journey.

Oliver Clark: Yes, learning from others is a key. This way you can avoid costly mistakes and accelerate your RTLS program.

Infinite Leap: In closing, as we are building our Community, can you please share with us some of your personal interests?

Oliver Clark: I am completing my MBA program, so there is not much free time left, but I enjoy photography and I am sharing this passion with my kids. I am also a big fan of theme parks – I can’t resist observing how parks use technology to enhance the client experience. The healthcare industry could learn much from them!

Infinite Leap: Thank you Oliver for sharing your insights today. I truly enjoyed our conversation.

If you would like to share your thoughts and best practices on RTLS, drop me a note – I’d love to chat with you to capture your experiences: www.linkedin.com/in/joannawyganowska