Radio-frequency (RF) technologies, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth low energy (BLE), are both low-cost and ubiquitous, making them an attractive entry point for adding location to technology investments. These wireless technologies also use standard protocols allowing for easy adoption and integration with other IoT devices.
It is important to note that Wi-Fi and BLE signals can pass through physical barriers like walls, floors and ceilings, and often maintain connectivity between devices in adjacent rooms, floors, and buildings. When used for RTLS, this means the devices, patients, or staff members identified in a room could be in a hallway or other location nearby. RF technologies are an excellent choice for fundamental location applications, such as estimating asset location in identified zones and supporting digital wayfinding using smartphones and kiosks. However, if the goal is akin to automating nurse call cancellation based on a staff member’s presence in a room, the technology will deliver unreliable results.
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When business requirements require greater precision, then the organization should consider investments in certainty-based or clinical-grade locating solutions, which leverage technologies like second generation infrared. These technologies work by segmenting clinical spaces, including patient rooms, bays, beds, nursing stations, and hallways into individual locations for the most accurate and granular information. This level of accuracy makes clinical-grade location solutions the best choice for use cases like workflow automation, nurse call cancellation, hand hygiene monitoring, and advanced security alerts.
Additional RTLS considerations
With thoughtful design and careful implementation, an RTLS system can deliver a robust combination of automation and optimization. This allows the healthcare enterprise to improve patient care and experience, increase staff productivity and satisfaction, reduce waste, and streamline daily operations.
Beyond matching the business requirements with the right technology, it is imperative to choose a technology provider that offers diverse and flexible solutions, which will allow the organization to expand its RTLS investment as business requirements evolve. The most advanced platforms enable facilities to integrate their location data into other key healthcare systems, such as Electronic Health Records (EMR), Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), and Edutainment Systems.