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How RFID Technology Improves Hospital Care
Jun 14, 2018

How RFID Technology Improves Hospital Care


Hospital Care


When redesigning the new and expanded emergency room at the hospital. The leaders didn’t just want to add more rooms and square feet. They saw it as an opportunity to completely transform the operation to improve care and the patient experience and to lower costs. To that end, they decided to have a team study how care is delivered, identify the barriers to smooth operations, and fix the barriers. In other words, they created a living lab of the Clinic’s largest emergency department.


The successful experience illustrates the role that relatively simple technology (e.g., an RFID system) and a multidiscipline team of clinicians and people from other fields can play in improving the quality and cost of care delivery processes and the steps that can ease the way to applying such an approach. The system is reducing the time that staff members spend finding equipment and each other, and it informs them when a colleague is attending a patient and shouldn’t be interrupted. Similarly, family members are now directed more quickly to patients. And misplaced equipment can now be easily located and returned to its correct place. All this is allowing the clinical staff to spend more of their time on activities that benefit patients. 


INSIGHT CENTER


Create a multidiscipline team. The team that implemented the initiative was led by a physician and a scientist-engineer, and its members were drawn from Mayo’s Emergency Department (ED) and the Clinic’s Robert D. and Patricia E. Kern Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery. This Emergency Department-Clinical Engineering Learning Laboratory (ED-CELL) team comprises physicians, nurses, other health professionals, systems engineers, scientists, informaticians, IT personnel, and project managers.


Use technology to identify and address barriers. The new infrastructure was a real-time-location (RTL) system with state-of-the-art location sensors and devices that use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track the movement of and locate patients, staff, and equipment. High-density RFID readers were installed in the ceilings. All patients receive RFID wristbands when they register. Staff members have RFID chips in their badges. And equipment is tagged with discrete RFID stickers. All of the RFID tags are “passive technology,” meaning that the individual tags don’t need power. The ED-CELL team developed software to provide the stream of RFID data to frontline staff in a usable manner.


Address potential obstacles early. One obvious issue was whether the RFID technology would interfere with the ECG machine, monitoring equipment, and the overhead communication and paging systems. The team conducted systematic testing and ensured that it did not adversely affect the functioning of other ED equipment and devices.


Frontline caregivers often react to new data-collecting technologies with caution and resistance. So the team was not surprised when members of the ED staff were concerned that their every move would be monitored. Some were worried that the data collected would be used for their performance reviews. In particular, the staff members were anxious that they might be tracked during breaks and time off the unit.


An important lesson of this initiative is that you cannot rely on technology alone to bring about innovation and change in a fast-paced environment. Creating an environment that nurtures collaboration across disciplines, ongoing engagement, and continuous learning is just as crucial. Employing a scientific approach to improvement and having a team of scientists, clinicians, and engineers work with the local clinical staff at the patient’s bedside is a powerful way to bring about change.


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