Healthcare News & Insights

Recovering from the effects of the coronavirus with RTLS

The coronavirus hasn’t only had a devastating impact on the health of millions of people around the globe, but also on the financial security of thousands of U.S. hospitals and healthcare systems. As stay-at-home orders are lifted, healthcare leaders are beginning to embark on the challenge of safely integrating non-emergent care, elective procedures and routine visits back into their facilities. Additionally, healthcare administrators are looking at strategies to quickly recover from the financial loss they have experienced as a result of the current pandemic. 

Healthcare IoT technologies, such as enterprise location services, have and will continue to play a critical role in improving patient care delivery and increasing staff safety. An example from the current pandemic is the use of RTLS to enable medical professionals to quickly locate critical medical equipment, such as ventilators, and ensure they have been properly disinfected before patient use. In addition to providing situational awareness to assets, hospital leaders can leverage the same enterprise location system to target patients and staff that may have been exposed to a given contagion in real-time through the use of contact tracing reports. Additionally, electronic hand hygiene compliance and differential air pressure monitoring can aid in infection control efforts to slow the spread of the virus in healthcare settings.

While these benefits will continue to be essential in terms of safe, quality care delivery, RTLS platforms can also help healthcare facilities recover from the long-term financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic by optimizing resources through automation and identifying opportunities for operational improvements, such as:

Improved workflows increase efficiency

Manually monitoring the movements of patients, visitors and staff in a chaotic healthcare environment is exceptionally difficult. Using RTLS for clinical workflow automation can enhance department efficiency and optimize hospital resources. Operating room (OR), emergency department (ED) and outpatient workflow solutions that leverage accurate location data can improve staff workflows and communications for a more connected and coordinated approach to patient care. Healthcare facilities move quickly, and real-location technology offers hospital operators a system that can keep up with the changing demands of clinical workflow while integrating patient data for an efficient, personalized and coordinated care delivery model.

Technology-enabled OR and outpatient workflows provide real-time visibility of case status to the necessary care delivery teams, sterile processing departments and patients’ families. Patient location, department specific work list (waiting room, pre-op, intra-op, PACU and post-op), as well as each milestone are automatically collected and time stamped. All clinical and operational events can then be directly integrated into the facility’s electronic health records (EHR) and workflow applications – ensuring everyone is connected throughout the perioperative department and during each phase of patient care. The information is accurate and immediate, meaning no one must wait for a clinician to manually update a case status, resulting in information delivery delays. This optimized workflow helps improve efficiencies such as reducing room turnover times. Through these enhanced efficiencies, room utilization rates are improved, increasing patient throughput and ultimately revenue.

These same efficiencies can be utilized as a tool to augment capacity management. This is imperative as patients begin being treated for non-emergent, non-coronavirus related health care. These improvements will help hospital leaders ensure surge capacity isn’t negatively impacted when resuming normal operations. Automating discharge processes with location data and communicating bed status changes to environmental services to decrease time-to-room turnover is one strategy to aid in this effort. Idle time of medical equipment in soiled utility closets can also be reduced through real-time alerts to mobile medical equipment teams and biomedical staff.

Better data enhances decision-making

As seen in OR workflows, RTLS can automate location and status updates and make sure each update is time stamped in an emergency department. Solutions like automated patient check-in, queue management and self-rooming can help hospitals reduce time wasted on manual data entry. Automating processes improves efficiency, allowing patients to move through the department faster, which positively affects their experience, and decreases their exposure to communicable diseases, such as the coronavirus from others in the waiting room. The emergency department can also analyze historic RTLS data to identify areas of improvement and adequately prepare for anticipated patient surges while reducing the risk of reaching maximum capacity.

Healthcare facilities using detailed and accurate location data benefit from improved decision making, while real-time situational awareness allows for on-demand changes to accommodate an agile patient care delivery model. Resource planning based on current capacity management data is critical as facilities re-open for preventive services. This includes accurately tracking and forecasting the number and type of staff needed, necessary medical equipment and anticipated demand on ancillary departments (lab, EVS, transport, radiology). This predictive capability can also identify opportunities to reallocate resources from other areas to support increased patient volume.

As we begin to emerge from the current pandemic, improving workflows and decision-making will benefit patients, staff and healthcare institutions. Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, location and sensing services have been an important resource for many healthcare leaders. Investing in the same technology, as a new tool to improve hospital operations or expanding upon a current system, can help healthcare facilities plan for and quickly rebound from healthcare crisis like we have seen with the coronavirus.

Christopher Thompson is the director of patient experience at CenTrak, a leading provider of location and sensing technology for the healthcare industry. Thompson has a master’s degree in nursing and more than 20 years of experience improving hospital workflow and operations.


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