Locating Mobile Equipment Does Not Need to Be Like the Hunt for Red October

This month, our featured RTLS in Healthcare Community member is J.C. Newell, Director of Healthcare Technology Management at JPS Health Network in Dallas/Fort Worth, TX.

Infinite Leap: J.C, can you share with us your journey with Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)?
J.C. Newell: Our organization started using an RTLS system for asset tracking back in 2015. I joined JPS Health Network in 2016, so I had the opportunity to use the system almost from its beginning.

Infinite Leap: How is your organization using an RTLS system?
J.C. Newell: We started using an RTLS system for tracking our mobile medical equipment, and we extended the use of locating technology to patient flow use cases, as well as staff and patient safety.

Infinite Leap: How many and what types of devices do you track with RTLS?
J.C. Newell: Our fleet of mobile equipment consist of 18,000 assets. We currently have 4,000 assets tracked using RTLS tags, primarily IV pumps, stretchers, beds, and patient monitors.

Infinite Leap: How do you determine what type of equipment should be tagged?
J.C. Newell: We decided to track equipment that is not department specific, and which circulates a lot around our facility, like stretchers and wheelchairs. We also tag assets that require a stringent preventive maintenance (PM) schedule so we can ensure the highest level of patient safety.

Infinite Leap: Have you seen any process improvements since implementing the RTLS system?
J.C. Newell: Yes, the RTLS system made a huge difference in our staff efficiency. Finding mobile equipment without an RTLS system was like “the hunt for Red October” – the moment you think you know where something is, it is being moved somewhere else or is hiding in some closet. Being able to quickly locate mobile equipment which is due for PM also allows us to increase asset utilization as we don’t need to account for extra days to find the equipment – it can stay in the pool of available for use equipment until it is time to bring it in for preventive maintenance. The RTLS system also helps us reduce rentals; we can clearly see if any departments have extra equipment, so we can dip into our own resources before requesting rental equipment.

Infinite Leap: And what is your advice for hospitals just starting with RTLS?
J.C. Newell: My advice is not to assume that the technology will solve your issues. You need your processes to change as well, and your staff to embrace it. We have had an RTLS system for several years now and we still need to educate staff that there is no need to hoard equipment, and that by sharing equipment among departments we can make it more accessible.

Infinite Leap: Yes, I agree – with a centralized supply chain model supported by RTLS system, the individual departments don’t need to wait until “their” piece of equipment is back in circulation after PM or repair, as they have access to a broader pool of assets.
J.C. Newell: Precisely. And, as I said earlier, you need to change people’s mindsets to leverage the power of locating technologies. This is also critical as you move to use cases involving badging staff, so they can see it as the way to make their work easier, not more difficult.

Infinite Leap: J.C., let’s talk about COVID. Did the RTLS system help your organization during the pandemic?
J.C. Newell:  We are the Level 1 Trauma Center and the only Behavioral Emergency Department in the region, so during COVID we were overrun by the influx of patients. The RTLS system was a blessing in the time of hardship, as it allowed us to quickly find equipment floating around the hospital, so when we needed an IV pump or a ventilator we knew exactly where to get it. This is an example of how our team, Healthcare Technology Management, helps our frontline workers care for patients.

Infinite Leap: In closing, as we are building our RTLS in Healthcare Community, can you please share with us some of your personal interests?
J.C. Newell: My husband and I love outdoor activities like camping and hiking. We are also both military veterans.

Infinite Leap: J.C – thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing with us your RTLS journey!

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