By Christopher Thompson
Real-time location systems (RTLS) have been an effective tool in the healthcare industry’s battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling a variety of use cases that support infection control and streamline operations.
RTLS-enabled contact tracing automates the identification, tracking, and reporting of interactions between individuals that have been identified as a carrier of SARS-CoV-2 virus and non-infected individuals. Contact tracing is also used to identify equipment utilized in the treatment of patients diagnosed with COVID-19, enabling hospital staff to ensure that the equipment is properly cleaned between patient use, and aids in the evaluation of risk and risk mitigation actions.
The use of RTLS for asset management extends beyond ensuring that equipment is properly cleaned between patients. It is routinely used in equipment distribution and utilization, driving a more efficient use of critical medical equipment during a time when hospital systems are facing enormous demands. Additional RTLS solutions, such as environmental monitoring, have proven essential with the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines. These sensors ensure that vaccines are stored at required temperatures and send automatic alerts to staff when they are outside of established parameters, reducing product waste and the cost of manual documentation.
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Recently, a hospital in California needed to rapidly distribute over 600 doses of the vaccine after its refrigeration failed. Luckily the medical center was able to administer the vaccines within the 12-hour time limit and avoid disposing of its limited resources, but this incident highlights the importance of being able to closely monitor vaccine storage temperatures and receive real-time alerts when temperatures fall out of range.
CenTrak customer Wake Forest Baptist Health commented that RTLS has been a "mission-critical tool" in its response to COVID-19. Prior to COVID-19, the hospital system was able to attribute more than $40 million in quantifiable value to RTLS since its launch. This is a testament to the value RTLS has in daily healthcare operations and its ability to provide critical insights during a health crisis like the one we are facing today.
A flexible approach to RTLS
Healthcare organizations seeking to optimize patient care by leveraging the benefits of an RTLS deployment should focus on balancing the cost and precision of location technologies with the strategic goals of the organization. The foundation to any successful technology implementation is to start with an assessment of the business requirements from internal stakeholders and pair those with the right business tools to meet each need. The business tools in this case are wireless locating technologies.