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Where's RTLS headed?

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | May 30, 2014
Anne Bugge
With AAMI upon us this weekend, DOTmed News wanted to check in on the state of RTLS (real-time locating systems). The technology has traditionally been used to track assets, but in this era of health care reform, hospitals are finding that it's also a useful tool for improving operational efficiencies.

DOTmed spoke with Anne Bugge, Sonitor Technologies' president and CEO for the Americas, about why RTLS has been working for hospitals and what challenges still remain.

DMN: There is a lot of talk about RTLS in health care these days, and more systems are being installed around the country. Do you sense a growing awareness of the technology and impact?

AB: Clearly this is the case on both scores. The technology is there at this point to be highly useful to hospitals, and word is spreading. We've gotten beyond the burdens of cabling with very flexible, reliable and easy to install wireless systems with long battery life. The systems are very accurate and applications are expanding. Perhaps most importantly, with the heavy emphasis the hospitals and CFOs are putting on ROI, RTLS is really showing rapid returns.

DMN: Let's talk about that ROI, do you have any data on that?

AB: We believe that on asset management alone, most facilities can recoup their costs within roughly a year. One customer recently shared with us that they were able to recover $3 million of missing equipment in a very short time. They expect to recover more, and going forward, better utilize their equipment, reduce staff time used to hunt items down, and reduce their reliance on rental equipment and redundant equipment purchasing. We're getting these kinds of reports consistently and that does not take into account all of the ROI from other applications, which is also substantial. And, by the way, too many hospitals continue to pay service contracts on equipment that they no longer have, which is such a waste of resources. Having an RTLS system would largely eliminate that.

DMN: What other applications are running on your RTLS platform and what do you see in the pipeline?

AB: Right now, the most common application for asset management is where customers can track and easily locate mobile medical equipment. We're also seeing RTLS being used to improve workflow and patient flow and for infection control, nurse call, environmental monitoring and safety. OR and ED workflow applications are becoming more prevalent and driving significant productivity increases too. Additionally, security applications are being developed and successfully deployed in staff duress and infant abduction prevention. Our system is like a smartphone, it provides a platform for an unlimited number of applications.

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