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In the emergency department of the Mayo Clinic RFID readers ensure an optimised workflow for patient safety

Use Cases | By PR RFID & Wireless IoT Global | 30 March 2016
More than 200 readers are integrated More than 200 readers are integrated Photo: Mayo Clinic

RTLS in the emergency department

No ‘Big Brother’! Locating without surveillance

“An RFID system for tracking people and equipment should never be implemented without the acceptance and support of the staff.” Right at the beginning,Thomas R. Hellmich, M.D. at Mayo Clinic based the considerations to improve patient care with RFID for the emergency clinic on this premise. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, operates one of the most modern emergency centres in the US. More than 70,000 patients are treated annually. Time is most valuable to create the best possible patient care. “Staff wanted a mechanism to help them spend more time with patients and less time searching for each other, patients and equipment”, adds Kalyan S. Pasupathy, Ph.D. at Mayo Clinic.

Kalyan S. Pasupathy, Scientific Director of the Emergency Department-Clinical Engineering Learning Laboratory at Mayo Clinic and Thomas R. Hellmich, Medical Director of the Emergency Department-Clinical Engineering Learning Laboratory at Mayo Clinic in interview with ‘RFID im Blick’

Trust is a crucial foundation

Thomas R. Hellmich and Kalyan S. Pasupathy agreed that RFID technology has all the necessary functions for a Real Time Locating System (RTLS) at the emergency clinic. They also knew an implementation would only be successful if all employees, patients and their families accept the technology. “We have taken a lot of time to discuss this with groups of people who are affected by the use of RFID. The feedback was taken into account when designing the solution”, says Thomas R. Hellmich. His colleague, Kalyan S. Pasupathy, adds: “Our multidisciplinary team, who planned the implementation of the solution, explained that RFID technology only supports patient safety and work process optimisation and would not allow individual surveillance.”

Thomas R. HellmichT. R. Hellmich “We use RFID to take care of patients as best as possible and never to monitor employees in any form. The employees’ acceptance of the solution is crucial for the application success.“

Create a Team!

One of the most important tips of the Mayo Clinic Directors, besides gaining the acceptance of employees for the new technology, is to create a multidisciplinary team to implement the solution. The Mayo Clinic formed a team of doctors, nurses, other health professionals, system engineers, scientists, computer scientists, IT staff and project managers. “We were able to mitigate any concerns in advance and provide a solution that is beneficial to everybody”, Thomas R. Hellmich explains.

Electronically compatible solution

An RFID system is designed to support processes rather than to interrupt them. Radio connections, particularly in the hospital environment, can disturb or interfere with certain electronic devices. “ECG devices or employees’ paging systems were systematically and extensively tested by our engineering team with regards to possible interferences by UHF RFID. The system was tuned to ensure no such interference existed”, says Kalyan S. Pasupathy.

All movements are registered in real time

The first tests started in 2013, and the roll-out was completed at the end of 2015. “Today three different groups are equipped with RFID tags”, says Thomas R. Hellmich and specifies: “All patients who come to the emergency room get a wristband. All employees (Core Staff) of the emergency department exchange their ID cards with new ones with an embedded RFID tag. The third group consists of equipment and devices that are used in different rooms of the emergency centre, such as portable ultrasound devices or Ipads, which support communication with non-English speaking patients. Each of these devices has been labelled with a tag.“

Kalyan S. PasupathyK. S. Pasupathy “The RTLS will enable us to analyse and optimise processes. We can harness the data to move from being reactive to being proactive and smart.”

RTLS improves patient care

The RTLS, implemented by the Mayo Clinic team, is based on RFID and supports optimal patient care in the emergency department. The system is already reaping benefits, where staff can locate patients and equipment, says Kalyan S. Pasupathy: „The team is working on additional mechanisms to minimize aspects such as patient alone time, etc.“

More than 200 readers are integrated

The emergency department has 73 rooms on a total area of approximately 5060 square meters. More than 190 patients are treated per day. “The number of cases make it clear that every day a number of staff, patients and relatives are on the move in the corridors and rooms. In order to have the best possible overview of all movements, there are more than 200 RFID readers with three to four external antennas integrated in the ceilings. Every 1.8 to 2.4 meters, on average, a reader is located in the corridors. In the rooms usually one reader is sufficient, based on the accuracy level needed. In some areas it is sufficient to know that there is a person or a device. In other areas it is important to know whether the patient is on the left or on the right side of the room”, says Kalyan S. Pasupathy. Most beneficial for the team is that the entire emergency department was renovated and expanded in the past year. While the renovations were ongoing, readers, antennas and wiring were integrated in the ceiling.

Blind spots wanted

„Early feedback from staff revealed which we were previously not aware of,“ says Thomas R. Hellmich. „We promised all employees, for example, that we will not monitor them when they enter one of the washrooms. At the same time, however, it is necessary that the RFID reader is in the washrooms to ensure that the staff were aware of the patients whereabouts. Therefore, our tracking software was adapted and every employee who leaves the emergency centre in the direction of the washrooms or at one of the exits will be registered as ‚not available‘. As long as an employee is not available, this time or duration is not displayed.

Big Data for optimised processes

On the first level, RFID technology supports the staff in the emergency department to take care of the patients as best as possible. On the second level, the Mayo Clinic team uses the collected data for comprehensive analysis and reporting. “So we are able to analyse processes and optimise them. We can make certain predictions based on workflow, determine how busy the ED is and improve future operations”, says Kalyan S. Pasupathy, adding: „The team is also exploring accuracy for automated reporting purposes.”

Last modified on Thursday, 12 May 2016 12:38
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