Human Resources, Maintenance and Operations

Streamlining Healthcare Facilities Management Through RTLS as a Service

Your job as a facilities manager of a healthcare facility or system is a complex one that includes balancing patient care and experience with that of employees combined with reducing risks, loss prevention, and streamlining the overall operations of the building.

Real-time location services (RTLS) have shown to make the jobs of facilities managers easier through customized technology using hardware and software that can track assets and provide a better patient experience with wayfinding.

The challenge is that most healthcare facilities cannot afford these expensive, custom-built systems which may degrade over time and cost more in maintenance and upgrades. Hardly an easy sell to executives and board members. 

And while RTLS is set to change the way healthcare facilities operate, most managers see it as a “luxury” or something “nice to have” with little confidence in the return on investment. How exactly can healthcare facilities acquire the technology they need if it’s expensive and difficult to measure?

Rethinking RTLS as Software as a Service (SaaS)

Each year, hospitals can lose up to $4,000 per bed while one-third of nurses spend, on average, one hour of time simply searching for the equipment or supplies needed for patient care. Moreover, the perceptions generated from patient experience often turn into customer sentiment shared online, which has become a powerful resource for attracting patients to healthcare facilities. 

The benefits of RTLS on operations; loss prevention; patient safety, care, and experience; and increased employee satisfaction are well documented, but the industry has had low adoption of the technology.

Today’s RTLS is rooted in customizing hardware and software to meet the needs of a facility, and it does a good job. However, for widespread access and adoption of RTLS within the healthcare system, it needs to be made more affordable.

As we rethink how to provide the benefits of RTLS to healthcare facilities across the country, the answer may be a system that easily works on the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure. Using “off the shelf” radio tags over expensive, custom-designed tags, in conjunction with RTLS software that works with radio frequency identification (RFID) and Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), facilities could get the technology that will keep them up to date and automate tasks without the hefty price tag.

With RTLS as software, facilities can simply subscribe to the software they need to help them streamline operations. They get both the value and the accuracy that will resolve pain points of facilities management without having to choose between line items in a budget. It’s a win-win for the facility, executives, and employees and patients.

The Benefits of RTLS 

RTLS offers a lot of benefits to healthcare facilities, including,

  • Improved operational efficiency (staff time)
  • Automating mundane tasks and reduce time spent looking for supplies, misplaced products or items
  • Informed decision-making: (e.g., measure asset utilization – make purchases for what you need exactly)
  • Improving the patient care by tracking how long a physician has spent with the patient 
  • Nurses’ stations can use it to track patient requests and even food deliveries
  • Facilities can track air quality including dust, temperature, and possible water leaks
  • Improve Safety
    • Nurses, physicians, and other hospital staff can immediately call for help if they are under duress. 
    • Patients who have memory issues or become disoriented can be tagged and found quickly if they become displaced.

More Than Just Indoor Tracking

RTLS as software also provides the opportunity for dual use by combining wayfinding and asset tracking (location of things) without the additional need of another custom-built system. 

Wayfinding has become an important part of not just the patient experience, but also in reducing missed appointments, which has become a big issue in the industry costing millions per year. By helping patients better find their way through healthcare facilities and large systems, RTLS as software can pack a punch in reducing the number of missed appointments.

In fact, a 2017 survey of employees at Geneva University Hospital found that they and patients would benefit from indoor wayfinding when navigating in large hospitals. Nearly half of participants stated that they are often stopped and asked directions by visitors, patients, and staff.

Take, for example, the largest veteran’s hospital in Saudi Arabia, which experiences extremely high numbers of missed appointments costing the facility thousands each year. Their particular goal with deploying a RTLS with both indoor tracking and wayfinding is to reduce the number of missed appointments, thus saving money and ensuring the best use of staff and physician time. With RTLS software deployment is faster and the hospital will begin seeing measurable results quicker.

Combining indoor tracking and wayfinding improves patient experience and sentiment toward the company and, ultimately, impacts the quality of care. Moreover, it benefits newer employees who are trying to navigate a large facility to locate supplies and equipment critical to patient care. 

These are only a few of the many benefits of RTLS and the ability of RTLS software to promote widespread adoption to help facilities stay current on technology. The technology benefits everyone in the facility at any given time, saving time, money and improving operations and the sentiment of employees and patients. RTLS as software democratizes affordable access, making it possible for all healthcare facilities to deploy it and enjoy its benefits.

Mohammed Smadi is CEO of PenguinIN, where he leads the business and technical development of opportunistic, managed indoor positioning solutions. Prior to PenguinIN, Mohammed founded Karmatix, a telematics-based loyalty program where he coined the term “road-as-a-service.” He was also a principal researcher at BlackBerry driving Quality of Experience over WiFi and co-founder of ErgoWiFi: technology provider for solar-powered WiFi mesh access points. Mohammed holds +25 granted/pending patents in addition to authoring several papers and book chapters. He has a PhD, M.A.Sc and B.Eng. & Mgmt. from McMaster University’s ECE where he is currently an adjunct assistant professor.