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The Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) have become an essential technology used for locating services in healthcare system. This instrument utilizes the GPS tracker systems which have been successful in locating outdoors and indoor assets that are used in healthcare (Goswami, 2013). It usually consists of specialized position sensors installed on tags and badges of the staff to enhance tracking. This technology also entails wireless signals that can be operated within the hospital range. According to Martinez-Perez et al. (2012), the proper implementation of the RTLS in the context of healthcare can have a tremendous impact on the patient safety and improve the quality of healthcare service delivery. It also has the potential to reducing the operation cost. An example of healthcare organization that has succeeded in the proper implementation of this technology is Banner Heart Hospital in Arizona State (Fisher & Monahan, 2012). This organization incorporates the RTLS tags to protect newborn and infants in the hospital environment and maternity department. This essay critically examines the usage of the RTLS in the clinical setting.
The main purpose of the RTLS locators is to enhance the productivity of nurses and their level of job satisfaction. This equipment usually ensures that nurses do not waste time in repetitive tasks that are undertaken daily. The RTLS is providing notifications on the accomplishment of a particular task by the nursing practitioners. Krohn (2008) discusses that the system is not meant to micromanage individual staff, but used as a hospital infection control measure to identify the staff requiring training. The RTLS tag is also fitted with a special panic button that nurses can press to summon security assistance in the case of physical attack. The system can also be used in biomedical laboratories to enable the nursing staff to know where the sample boxes are stored.
The RTLS is usually used in hospital environments by the quality control department to ensure high quality of patient care and rapid response to emergencies. This system is also critical in psychiatric hospitals to monitor movements of the physically aggressive patients who can be a threat to the healing process of other patients.
The RTLS is also important for healthcare facility because it can be used to identify overcrowding of patients in a particular department, hence more staff allocated. The system has also proved efficiency in the support of acute care capacity management.
Description of Patient/ Client Population
The RTLS is usually essential in tracking the movement of patients with the cases of Alzheimer and dementia. The system can also be used for patients with highly contagious diseases that can spread faster within health environment if the movement is not restricted. For instance, these systems are usually programmed with the door locking systems such that an attempt of a patient to escape triggers automatic locking.
Benefits of the RTLS
The RTLS systems can be used to track the location of expensive equipment in health care facilities, hence preventing theft. Fisher and Monahan (2012) discuss that incorporating this technology can aid in tracking the ICU ventilators and the intravenous pumps which are vulnerable to theft.
The system can also enable a healthcare facility to save time and focus on the patients with most critical conditions, hence enhancement of patient safety. For instance, the RTLS have been identified as an essential tool that can reduce the time required by nurse to locate the patients using wheel chair for transportation purpose. Additionally, the real-time location feature for the specimen in laboratories setting can facilitate efficiency and minimize confusion which may be detrimental in the accuracy of experiments.
Fisher and Monahan (2012) have also pointed out that the RTLS can be used to evaluate the quality of service in a particular healthcare facility. This aspect can be achieved by monitoring the information recorded about the time spent by patient from the point of admission to the time the patient leaves the facility. The auditing department can also use this system when evaluating the frequency of professional nurses attending to a particular patient.
The RTLS can also be used to monitor the nurse’s compliance with the hygiene protocol in healthcare setting. This aspect can help in minimizing the risk of nosocomial infections which may come as a result of not maintaining proper hygiene inwards. Krohn (2008) has acknowledged that the RTLS is the most suitable and a low-cost method for recording data about the number of times nurses use the sanitation stations. For instance, when a particular nurse uses the hand washing station, the RTLS can communicate to the RFID badge worn by the nurse and record the time used by the staff in a specific dispenser.
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Strengths of the RTLS
The main strength of the systems is that it allows real-time monitoring of all activities in the healthcare system and is an effective disaster management tool. The right combination of the location sensors can enhance the performance accuracy, hence a secure working environment for the staff. The system can also be used by the management to identify the weaknesses of their healthcare services and work on it to enhance the productivity of staff. Additionally, the system has proved to be the best security system applied to patients with psychiatric conditions.
The primary weakness of integrating the RTLS into the healthcare system is that it requires the installation of additional facilities such as Wi-Fi access points. The system also requires installation of sensors at strategic positions in the hospital rooms which might be expensive to install in the short-run. The sensors technologies such as ultrasonic sound, infrared light, and low-frequency radio should be installed for the system to operate efficiently.
Youssef, McDonald, Linton, Zemke and Earle (2014) have acknowledged that healthcare organizations can benefit from the use of RTLS. Nonetheless, there are significant limitations that accompany the use of Wi-Fi-based tracking systems. For instance, these systems use the access-point-based triangulation model that are prone to errors and can compromise the data integrity (Goswami, 2013). Therefore, high cases of erroneous alerts may be generated especially when the rooms are close to each other.
Implementation Challenges of the RTLS
The operations of the tag may also be affected by conditions such as presence of the magnetic metal and liquid between the tags and the antennae. This aspect usually affects the response rate of signals and communication with the sensors, hence compromising the accuracy of data. Furthermore, the system operation might be affected by the lack of frequent maintenance.
The layout and architect of hospitals can also interfere with the RTLS locations. Hospitals with confusing floor plans that have building intersecting each other can pose a significant challenge during the installation process.