RTLS in Hospitals: Technologies and Applications

RTLS in Hospitals: Technologies and Applications

Ygal Bendavid
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch132
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1. Introduction

The healthcare sector around the globe faces an increased demand to cut down costs, streamline operational efficiencies and comply with government regulations while improving the quality of care services. The combined effect of scarce and limited competent resources, inefficient systems and an aging population result in a significantly increased demand for healthcare services. For instance, in Québec, Canada, the healthcare system’s expenses have increased from 31% of total program expenses in 1980 to 45% in 2010 and 49% in 2015 (Conseil du tresor, 2015), forcing an important reorganization of the health and social services network. Although these numbers are taken from a local Canadian context, they represent a global trend for healthcare services where the health system’s share of program expenses is constantly rising. For instance, in the US, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS), national health expenditures projections were expected to grow at an average rate of 5.7 percent for 2013-2023. By 2023, health expenditures (financed by federal, state, and local governments) are projected to account for 48% of national health spending and to reach a total of $2.5 trillion. In 2012, such expenditures constituted $1.2 trillion or 44% of national health spending (CMMS, 2013). In this context, it is interesting to note that the total hospital spending is reaching $918.8 billion, with major spending on physician and clinical services. This situation is worsened by an increasing shortage of doctors, nurses and skilled ancillary personnel, undue work pressures, ineffective communication mechanisms and already existing but unreadily available clinical information (Agarwal et al., 2008).

Indeed, in order to address these challenges, hospitals around the globe are increasing their adoption of

  • 1.

    Hospital information systems such as vertical Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions

  • 2.

    Advanced mobile technologies such as portable computers, tablets and smart-phones

  • 3.

    Wireless data networks such as Wi-Fi networks and

  • 4.

    Automation technologies such as barcodes, and more recently Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technologies which use radio waves to automatically identify and track any (mobile) object in real time, without human intervention.

This paper discusses the adoption of RFID technologies enabling innovative mobile service applications in hospitals, by examining how the technology can be used to increase the performance of operations management while enhancing patient care processes. In particular, the paper will look at RFID technologies enabling Real Time Location Systems (RTLS) adopted by a growing number of hospitals for asset tracking, patient workflow management and other applications where knowledge of the real-time location and status of mobile objects (e.g., products, people and assets) are important.

Key Terms in this Chapter

RTLS: Real Time Location Systems are used to locate, track and manage objects (e.g., mobile assets, patient, medical staff). Usually RTLS systems are based on active RFID technologies but recent development of passive RFID technologies enable zone monitoring (identification and localization).

LBS: Location Based Service use location-enabled devices (e.g., smartphone) to track the location of users within the range of a wireless network.

RFID Middleware: An event based software management platform which acts as a bridge between RFID hardware components and back end systems such as HIS. In order to translate basic data captured (i.e. tag ID) into useful information (e.g. patient status), RFID analysts and hospital staff need to define specific business rules that will be configured in the middleware.

HIS: Hospital Information Systems are a collection of software programs, or modules, which ties all of hospital’s various functions (clinical services, staff management, patient management, etc.) into a cohesive system.

AIDC: Automatic Identification and Data Capture technologies including among other, bar codes, systems, infra red, ultra sound, biometry, magnetic stripes, etc.

RFID Tags: RFID tags are called transponders because they transmit and respond to RF signals. They are used to identify and track any (mobile) object in real time without human intervention.

RFID: Radio Frequency Identification is a technique that allows objects (e.g., medical supplies, mobile assets, patients) to be identified automatically using radio waves.

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