The Scale of RTLS Initiatives in Healthcare

by Joanna Wyganowska, MBA, PMP | VP of Marketing at Infinite Leap

Our next discussion area, based on results from The State of Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) in Healthcare research study, is the scale of RTLS initiatives.

According to the survey results, for 75% of healthcare organizations the RTLS project was a system-wide initiative, with only 25% indicating that RTLS was a departmental project.

The use cases driven by a system-wide initiative included asset tracking, patient flow, inventory management, and nurse call integration, while departmental projects were primarily infant abduction prevention and temperature monitoring.

A similar division was reported when questioned about current RTLS coverage. 72% of healthcare organizations indicated that their RTLS infrastructure covers the entire hospital or the majority of selected hospitals within their healthcare system, while only 28% indicated that RTLS coverage was available in just a few departments.

Working with our healthcare clients, we always recommend looking at the RTLS initiative from an enterprise-wide point of view. Because an RTLS system provides visibility into your operational processes and patient workflows, you would see a limited value from “lighting up” just a part of your hospital.

Can you imagine having lights in just a single room of your house? Yes, you would be able to function well in that room, but when you move to other parts of your house you would lose visibility. Or imagine yourself driving in the city – the areas that are illuminated let you move faster and easier. Yes, adding lights throughout the entire city impacts the cost, but you always need to weigh the cost against the benefits, such as safety or efficiency.

Now, imagine your hospital with thousands of patients, staff, and equipment moving around constantly. Without visibility into the location and status of all the moving elements of your healthcare processes, you will have a hard time making your hospital efficient, safe, and friendly for patients, their families, and staff.

As the study shows, there are certain uses cases that are designed to function in a specific department only, such as a location-based infant abduction prevention solution in the Birth Unit of the hospital. Yes, in this situation deploying a departmental solution makes sense. However, you should always think about how the RLTS system can be leveraged for multiple use cases, to provide additional value to the hospital. Using a Birth Unit as an example, the investment made to “light up” the unit with the location hardware infrastructure could also be used for equipment tracking, staff and patient location, nurse rounding, automated nurse call cancelation, transport requests, and automated family notifications about a patient’s current location. These use cases can be applied across the entire hospital, leveraging your technology investment. The more use cases your organization can address using an RTLS solution, the higher ROI it will achieve.

So, avoid deploying RTLS solutions to address a single use case, in a single department. Even if your department has a budget to deploy an RTLS-based departmental solution, bring other departments and your leadership into a discussion on how you can “illuminate” your entire organization – bringing value to all patients and staff.

Related topics:
Major Factors Driving RTLS Initiatives