How to Set the Right Expectations When Deploying a Real-Time Location System

RTLS Deployment

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

Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) are transforming the way healthcare organizations run their operations. Staff can accomplish their day-to-day tasks such as finding medical equipment due for preventive maintenance much more efficiently, the management team can make smarter decisions regarding equipment purchases, and, more importantly, patients spend less time waiting and more time with care providers, since Real-Time Locating technologies minimize workflow bottlenecks.

While the advantages of using RTLS technologies are undisputable and high ROI has been proven by many healthcare systems, there is no doubt that successful RTLS implementation requires careful planning, thoughtful attention to how staff will interact with the system, and what process changes need to be implemented to fully leverage the value the RTLS system can bring to the organization. 

For these reasons, starting an RTLS initiative by setting realistic expectations with the organization’s main stakeholders is crucial to the success of the project. Through this process, you can close the gap between expectations and reality so there are no surprises or disappointments.

From our experience, there are four types of expectations an organization needs to settle on when it comes to deploying a Real-Time Location System:

  • Technical
  • Financial
  • Operational
  • Emotional

Let’s dive into each of them:

Technical Expectations
Technical expectations refer to the RTLS system’s functional specifications. It is critical for the healthcare organization to fully understand the capabilities of the hardware and software components, so there are no surprises going into the implementation.

For example, if the organization plans to use an RTLS system to increase utilization of a medical equipment fleet and wants to use PAR level functionality within the RTLS software, this uses case would require a much higher level of RTLS hardware granularity than if just planning to use the system for asset location.

It is not unusual for vendors to minimize the amount of required RTLS hardware to close the deal, then upsell additional hardware when specific use cases are deployed. Our experts can provide the necessary due diligence to ensure client use cases can be deployed in real life.

Financial Expectations
Healthcare organizations invest in an RTLS system with the expectation of attaining a solid ROI. This is quite unique in the healthcare IT space, where many systems are deployed simply to meet regulatory mandates. A properly managed RTLS system can bring millions of dollars back to the organization through increased patient throughput, higher asset utilization, reduced spoilage of supplies, and increased staff productivity, just to name a few.

On the other side of this equation, the healthcare organization needs to add the cost of proper system upkeep. Having a full picture of expected additional revenue streams and cost reduction, along with any expenses related to owning the RTLS system, is critical to understanding when the break-even point should take place, and what needs to be done to accomplish it.

Our RTLS Solution Design consultants help with this process by developing a 5-year budget and ROI Analysis. The five-year budget includes a breakdown of all major components (products, services, internal staff, support/maintenance costs, etc.) of the initiative by month/quarter/year/five-year total, as well as a summary of capital costs vs. operating costs for easy incorporation with the annual budgeting process. The five-year ROI analysis highlights what opportunities for return should be expected with various use cases. This ROI work utilizes Infinite Leap’s practiced expertise to make sure every project is base-lined and has established measures to determine value.

Operational Expectations
Getting the system live should not be the finish line – it should be the start of your journey with RTLS. Take the time to fully understand how much time and effort will be necessary for your RTLS system to become operational. For example, you need to ensure the RTLS infrastructure is working at all times, that the rules in the RTLS software are set up and working correctly, that RTLS tags stay attached to the equipment, and that data generated by the system is used to drive process improvement.

One way we help healthcare organizations prepare is by recommending an RTLS program governance structure and roles and responsibilities matrix to ensure the ongoing success of the system.

Equipped with the information on what it takes to run the RTLS program efficiently, healthcare organizations can decide if they want to manage the system in-house or if they want to hand off parts of the program management, or even an entire RTLS program, to a vendor.

Emotional Expectations
Implementing a new technology usually involves a resistance to change as staff transition into using the new system in their daily work. Understanding upfront how a new system may impact daily staff routines provides an opportunity to prepare for the change and address potential issues before they arise. Transitioning to new processes will require paying special attention to reinforcing the importance of adhering to new processes, so they become hard-wired and staff will not go back to their old habits. Only then will you be able to fully realize your desired technology benefits.

We also found that the key to reducing staff anxiety is to demonstrate executive support for the initiative. Make sure your RTLS initiative has an executive sponsor who is truly excited about RTLS and will be able to share that enthusiasm across the organization.

Setting realistic expectations for your RTLS project is crucial to its success, as the smaller the gap between expectations and reality, the less stress and frustration will arise during and after implementation of the RTLS system. Don’t be afraid to confront it – and if you need any assistance with this process, don’t hesitate to ask.