Healthcare News & Insights

RTLS: Streamline patient flow, increase volume and satifaction

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could eliminate waiting room wait times? Heck, wouldn’t it be great to just eliminate waiting rooms, where germs are spread and people get cranky for sitting there a long time? That’s exactly what one healthcare provider did.

135545938Providence Health & Services, the largest healthcare provider in Washington State, recently opened a brand new clinic in Monroe. The thing about this new clinic is there was no waiting room.

How is that possible?

The answer: a Real-time Locating System (RTLS), from Versus Technology, Inc.

What is RTLS?

RTLS is basically a GPS for indoors. The system displays the real-time location of people and things on a map or a list. It uses badges to track people and tags to track equipment. The badges and tags communicate with a sensory network of receivers installed throughout a facility, according to details in 7 Ways RTLS Technology Increases Patient Volume and Improves Satisfaction.

The information from the badges and tags can be displayed on workstations, mobile devices and overhead displays.

Hospitals were some of the first to use RTLS, according to the white paper. In addition to locating equipment, employees and patients, hospitals now are using RTLS to:

  • ensure patient safety
  • document caregiver-to-patient interactions, and
  • track patient flow for throughput management.

Increased efficiency

The new Providence clinic has a lot of cutting-edge technology that simplifies and streamlines processes, according to an article in The Monroe Monitor & Valley News.

When patients arrive at the clinic, they see eight stations set up like bank tellers. At the stations, patients are given radio tags to wear. These tags let staff know where patients are and how long they’ve been there. Providence’s goal is to not have anyone wait in a line more than two minutes or take longer than five minutes to register.

By setting up the clinic like this, there’s no need for a waiting room.

After patients register at one of the stations, they’re guided to one of Providence’s 58 small exam rooms. This is where they wait to be seen by a provider. If at any point, however, a patient is alone for more than 10 minutes, the radio tag alerts staff.

To keep things moving right along, exam rooms are equipped with electronic white boards that show who patients have seen and who still needs to see the patients. And if a provider needs a nurse or another provider for part of the exam, he or she knows exactly where to find the person and where to call for the person — a big time saver.

Instead of the exam rooms being stocked with supplies, there are carts set up for specific medical issues. For example, there’s a standard exam cart, a cardiology exam cart, etc. This allows the exam rooms to be much smaller, since they don’t need to store everything for every condition. Plus, it saves staff time from getting supplies from the storage area or searching for missing supplies.

Finally, the exam rooms automatically indicate when rooms are ready for turnover after a patient is discharged.

End results

With RTLS not only are the patients happier because they don’t have to endure long waits in crowded, germ-filled waiting rooms and they get their physicians’ undivided attention, but the providers are happier, too. Less provider turnover, means less spending on recruiting.

“If I’m in the room and I need something, I just press the patient’s button [on the badge],” explains Dr. Brett Daniel, medical director at Pacific Medical Centers’ Canyon Park Clinic in Bothell, WA. “A big red pop-up comes up to all the computers in that work area that says I need assistance in that room. Someone responds quickly, I get what I need, I don’t have to leave the room, I get to stay with the patient and work on their problem, and I get to spend more time with them, with concentration on them.”

A facility’s revenue can also get a healthy boost from streamlining patient flow.

At Canyon Park Clinic, the facility, which is a multi-specialty clinic, used RTLS to improve patient flow and volume. The facility went from 3,000 patient visits a month to nearly 6,000 visits a month — a nice jump in revenue.

Bottom line: RTLS technology has been proven to decrease wait times, improve patient flow and increase throughput.





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