Passive or Active Patient Tracking – Which One Should You Choose?

Patient Tracking

by John Swart | VP, Solutions at Infinite Leap

As Real-Time Technologies consultants, we are often asked by our healthcare clients to help them choose the right technology to meet their needs.

When they want to start tracking the location of their patients, a question they often ask is: “Should we go with a passive or active patient tracking system?”

When we hear this question, we typically ask them to step back and think about what they want to accomplish by tracking patients.

Do they just want to know when the patient came into their facility and when they left certain areas, or do they want to use the system to make in-the-moment decisions to optimize their workflow?

Knowing this allows us to determine if passive or active patient tracking makes better sense.

From our experience, using passive tags for patient tracking has two main limitations you need to be aware of:

1) Accuracy and timeliness of the location information: a passive system only tells you the last time a patient was located (when the tag was detected as a patient was passing through a chokepoint); therefore, a passive tag system just reports where a person was, and not where they are NOW, because the passive tag does not continuously send the location information.

2) The overall cost of required infrastructure: passive tags require passive readers, and passive readers require ethernet cabling. If you need to know where patients are at all times, then you would need to pull cabling to many reading locations (chokepoints), which can make the overall solution more expensive. The cost of tags is just one element of the overall cost, so even if passive tags are cheaper than active tags, the overall cost of the solution might be much higher.

There might be certain situations where deploying a passive patient system is still a suitable option, such as if a facility just needs to know when a patient entered or exited a certain, limited area; however, as I mentioned earlier, jumping into a hardware selection process without understanding the core objectives of deploying the tracking system can lead to making the wrong choices.

If your organization is in the process of selecting hardware options, please press the pause button and give us a call. We will be glad to help you verify your assumptions and choices.