KLAS: RTLS use on upswing in hospitals

An estimated 10 to 15 percent of hospitals are using a real-time location system (RTLS), according to a recent survey by KLAS Research. Moreover, 95 percent of the 150 responding facilities, which ranged from very small to very large hospitals, said that their use of RTLS resulted in operational efficiency gains.

"Providers using RTLS solutions reported finding success when automating the monitoring of refrigerator temperatures; tracking assets, patients, or staff members; assessing hand-hygiene compliance; and engaging in a variety of other uses," report author Steve VanWagenen said in a press release. "However, not all RTLS deployments are created equal. Much of a facility's success with RTLS depends on the breadth of the deployment, the variety of ways RTLS is being used and the level of integration between RTLS and other solutions."

Earlier deployments of RTLS focused on the location of medical equipment. Facilities saved money on labor and lowered capital expenditures by increasing utilization of existing equipment. Nevertheless, the technology had gained little traction as recently as 2009.

Today, RTLS utilization is likely to include the tracking of patients and clinicians. For example, RTLS tags can be used to measure patient wait times, ensure that staffers wash their hands between patient contacts, and reduce the amount of distance that nurses have to walk in the hospital.

Different RTLS solutions adapt to hospital environments in a variety of ways. For example, while wireless systems are used to transmit and receive data, some RTLS systems depend on ultrasound or infrared to locate equipment and people within rooms to avoid interfering with electronic equipment.

According to the KLAS report, 75 percent of hospitals using RTLS found that it improved equipment utilization and staff efficiency. Other benefits of RTLS cited by respondents included better documentation (19 percent), improved alerts and reporting (19 percent), and saving time by quickly finding assets (11 percent).

Most RTLS vendors are independent of the big health information services companies. KLAS respondents used solutions from AeroScout, Awarepoint, Ekahau, GE, Intelligent InSites, Radianse and Versus. KLAS' report includes information on these and other RTLS vendors, including CenTrak, Cerner, Hill-Rom, Sonitor and TeleTracking.

To learn more:
- read the KLAS press release
- check out this Healthcare IT News special report on RTLS

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