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How passive RFID for asset tracking can improve care delivery

May 16, 2018
HTM
SCD pump with RFID tag
From the May 2018 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

By David Stotland

Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH), a 245-bed acute-care facility in Mount Kisco, New York and a member hospital of Northwell Health, has always had an interest in innovation. So, when it was time to seek out and implement a technological system that would provide automated data about equipment location, compliance with periodic automatic replenishment (PAR) levels, and analytics to observe trends, we were well equipped to begin the journey.

NWH is a process-driven organization. Before even piloting the RFID system, we already had a set of operational business processes in place and our idea was to select the best technology that fits the existing business processes in order to take advantage and have them develop.

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Starting in 2013, the hospital’s biomedical engineering department reviewed and presented for clinical leaders the available technologies and solutions for asset tracking. A year later, the hospital’s objectives and success criteria for a universal multitasked tracking system had been formulated.

In 2015, the RFID tracking system was designed and implemented. In 2016, it was piloted, tuned and launched, and since then, passive RFID tracking has become a common daily tool for operational management, clinical engineering, and lab departments.

How the decision-making process looked
While selecting the technology, we asked ourselves if it gets the needed information, serves the hospital’s processes, and can feed data into internal systems, such as the EMR and CMMS.
ECG with RFID tag
In partnership with hospital executives, the biomed team decided that it didn't need an expensive, active real-time locating system (RTLS) that would require maintenance itself. We didn't need to control every square foot of the facility, instead we wanted to monitor predefined areas to be better able to locate equipment when needed.

Passive RFID tags have no batteries and they don’t require maintenance. Tags get powered by the energy from RFID readers when passing them.

Before the RFID pilot, NWH nursing and biomedical groups established PAR levels of the movable equipment on inpatient pods. Each pod has a dozen patient rooms and there are specific quantities of the assets assigned to each pod, such as vital sign monitors, EKG machines, infusion and PCA pumps, patient monitors and telemetry transmitters, scanners, patient lifters, lab network printers, workstations on wheels, etc.

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