Real-Time Locating System (RTLS) For Healthcare

Real-time locating system (RTLS) are used to automatically identify and track the location of objects or people in real time,; usually within a building or other contained area. Wireless RTLS tags are attached to objects or worn by people, and in most RTLS,; fixed reference points receive wireless signals from tags to determine their location.

Examples of real-time locating systems include tracking automobiles through an assembly line,; locating pallets of merchandise in a warehouse, or finding medical equipment in a hospital.

The physical layer of RTLS technology is usually some form of radio frequency (RF) communication,; but some systems use optical (usually infrared) or acoustic (usually ultrasound) technology instead of or in addition to RF. Tags and fixed reference points can be transmitters, receivers, or both, resulting in numerous possible technology combinations.

RTLS are a form of local positioning system, and do not usually refer to GPS or to mobile phone tracking. Location information usually does not include speed, direction, or spatial orientation.

A real-time location system (RTLS) is one of a number of technologies that detects the current geolocation of a target,; which may be anything from a vehicle to an item in a manufacturing plant to a person. Sectors RTLS-capable products are being used including supply chain management (SCM),; health care, the military, retail, recreation, and postal and courier services.

RTLS (Real-Time Locating System) is typically embedded in a product, such as a mobile phone or a navigational system. Most such systems consist of wireless nodes — typically tags or badges — that emit signals and readers that receive those signals.

Real-Time Locating System applications include:

  • Fleet tracking: Fleet-tracking RTLS systems make it possible for an enterprise to track vehicle location and speed,; optimize routes, schedule jobs, aid navigation and analyze driver efficiency.
  • Navigation: The most basic navigation services provide directions for how to get from Point A to Point B. Incorporating GPS, mapping and mobile cellular technology will enable more complex navigation services.
  • Inventory and asset tracking: RFID technologies are widely used for asset and inventory tracking. RFID tags communicate wirelessly with RFID readers throughout the enterprise.
  • Personnel tracking: Different technologies are used for on-site personnel and workers in the field. Systems that track field workers are typically GPS-enabled mobile phones. On-site personnel tracking systems often use RFID technology, such as RFID-enabled badges.
  • Network security: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) can limit the physical area from which a user can connect; to restrict access based on the user’s location.

Real-Time Locating System in Healthcare

  • A simple, stress-free integration: When you’re piloting a new technology, IT can be a barrier—and for a good reason. Every additional technology added to your network (or your customers’ network) can pose a potential security risk.
  • A low cost, scalable solution: AirFinder doesn’t require a huge upfront investment; it can scale all the way from one location to 10,000 locations. You can start small and build from there. We’ve seen healthcare centers start using AirFinder in operating rooms only, then later scaling through the hospital as needed. Or, if you wanted to study patient/provider interactions, you could track only the providers in the research study.
  • A lightweight, inexpensive install: Why pay for an infrared or ultra wide-band (UWB); install that could run tens of thousands of dollars when; you ;can install a Bluetooth-based system for a fraction of that cost?; This means more profit if you’re integrating AirFinder technology into your solution,; or increased ROI if you’re installing AirFinder in your healthcare facility.

Things To Consider When Choosing RTLS For Your Hospital

1. Is the solution within your budget?

2. How complex is the IT integration?

3. How much of the facility will you need to outfit?

If you’re only tracking 10 items in five rooms, integrating an extensive infrared RTLS solution may be wasteful. Carefully consider what you want to track and how much of your hospital.

4. Do you need exact locations or proximity?

Does it matter whether you can triangulate the exact position of a tracked item,; or do you just need to know a general location of an item?

5. What do you want to track?

If you’re tracking expensive capital assets,; like an infusion pump or X-ray machine, spending $80 on an RTLS tag is reasonable. But if you need to locate Dr. Bob’s special surgery stool (so his interns stop wasting time searching for it),; or if you want to track 1,000 pillows around the hospital,; a $2 price tag meets the use case more appropriately.

6. Do you need to track outside the traditional clinical environment?

If you need to track staff visiting patient homes, or the location of hospital vehicles,; you’ll want to be certain your technology does well with multi-mode tracking. AirFinder can use a combination of cellular and GPS to track a team of home health; aides carrying medical equipment from home to home,; but a system like Wi-Fi wouldn’t work as well in these conditions.

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