How to get more value out of RTLS technology

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Real-time location systems increasingly are being installed at more healthcare organizations, but because the technology is so versatile and can be used to track a variety of activities, implementations can go astray without strong leadership.

Real-time location systems can track patients, staff, clinicians, supplies and processes, and provider organizations need to focus on the main purpose they have in mind for the technology, says Brett Chambers, director of strategic initiatives at MedNetworX, a reseller of RTLS systems from Versus.

RTLS systems work best when a provider organization can identify the key objectives it wants to meet and then has a plan in place to revisit the objectives to ensure they continue to meet needs, or require revisions as circumstances change, Chambers says.

Those objectives, such as managing and evaluating wait times, tracking care quality and workflow efficiency, seeing more patients and increasing patient satisfaction while being able to leave on time, among other factors, should be an organization’s project mission statement to be successful, he adds.

“You should be re-evaluating and looking to see if you are still adhering to the objectives,” he advises. “Six months or a year later, look again to see if needs have changed.”

From Chambers’ experience, it is easy to have RTLS initiatives get off track as organizations begin to realize the versatility of the technology, so it’s important that an organization remember why it adopted RTLS in the first place.

Best practices for RTLS and other information systems dictates good project management with a recognized leader responsible for the project, and most successful organizations have strong leadership for the initiative. Those without a true leader risk letting the project drift and risk not achieving a full return on the technology investment.

Sometimes an organization has a clear RTLS leader whose role or priorities change, and they leave without having a replacement in place, which can be devastating to the project. Absent a strong leader, workflow changes may not get validated, so the data being collected has the potential to be inaccurate.

Or staff members or clinicians may refuse to participate—they don’t want to carry a RTLS badge, for example. Versus had a four-physician practice client where one physician did not wear a badge for six months. Collecting and analyzing documentation data for three of the physicians helped find ways to be more efficient while giving good care. One of the physicians wound up having his schedule increased by 32 patients in one week. But the balking physician could not increase her schedule, and that became a source of contention with other partners, and she began using the Versus technology because she could not justify not using it, Chambers says.

The bottom line, Chambers says, is that as with other technologies, an RTLS project needs a succinct message sent to everyone who will be affected so they understand what the organization is doing with the technology.

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