Practical Tips for Implementing an RTLS-based Patient Flow Solution: 8 Ways to Ensure Patient Badges are Returned

by Mary Jagim RN, MSN, CEN, FAEN | CNO at Infinite Leap

Using Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) to improve the flow of patients through their care process is proving to be valuable in decreasing congestion at the point of registration, reducing patient wait times, and keeping patient family members up to date on patient care.

Implementing an RTLS-enabled patient flow solution does not come without some initial challenges. The biggest concern our healthcare clients have is the financial cost that occurs when RTLS badges leave a facility.

Here are some practical tips to ensure that patient badges are returned.    

  1. Educate the patient at the point of check-in about how the RTLS badge assists them in getting better care and how to return it at the end of their visit.

  2. Train staff to ask for the patient badge during the discharge process or another specific phase of the patient’s stay. Make it a part of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

  3. Attach stickers on RTLS badges to indicate they are the property of the healthcare facility and how to return them if they accidentally make their way home with the patient. Most people want to do the right thing; make it easy for them to do so.

  4. Place collection points at all patient exits to give them an opportunity to return a locating badge if it was not collected by a staff member. Post appropriate signage, preferably with images that will be easy to understand (as opposed to a text-heavy message), near the drop box to draw attention to and quickly explain the box’s purpose.

  5. Set the RTLS badges to notify the patient and staff in some manner when the badge leaves a pre-defined area of the facility. This could be an audible alarm on the badge itself (if equipped) to prompt a patient to return the badge. You can also set a notification in the system or even trigger a light to turn on at the point of exit to notify staff that the patient badge should be retrieved from the patient.

  6. Reach out to patients who have accidentally left with a badge by sending them a pre-paid envelope to make returning the badge quick and easy.

  7. Establish clear criteria around which patients are important to include in the badging program. For example, outpatients who are only picking up a prescription might not produce valuable workflow data, and you may choose to exclude them from receiving an RTLS badge.

  8. Ask patients for their feedback. Reach out to them to see what they think would be the most effective way of getting the badges back.

These are only a few ideas that we’ve seen work. We’d be glad to discuss your specific situation if you are concerned about badge loss. This can be solved, and your patients, their families, and staff can enjoy the benefits of a real-time patient flow solution.