One of the most common questions that comes up with our customers is: “What are real-time locating systems?” Here, we will break down exactly what they are and all the ways they can optimize your facility and improve the safety of your staff and residents.
What Are Real-Time Locating Systems?
Real-Time Locating Systems (RTLS) have recently seen a rise in popularity as companies are realizing that the software is revolutionizing the way that businesses are able to track and monitor assets in real time. These systems use wireless tags to monitor the location of assets, inventory, employees, students and more using radio frequency technology.
There are different types of RTLS systems which vary in how effectively they can track individuals. The two main types of RTLS software include:
- Wi-Fi systems
- Active Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems.
Real-time locating systems (RTLS) are a new technology that use small sensors to track the exact location of people or objects within a facility in real time. These sensors can be attached directly to employees as badges or ID cards are embedded inside equipment for easy tracking – removing the need for additional hardware like scanners and readers. These work similarly on a very basic level by monitoring where each tag is located and sending that information to a centralized computer system, the only difference between them is the technology being used to send and receive signals. The last type of RTLS uses a passive RFID system, which functions differently from the other two as it does not require batteries for its use.
RTLS software allows your team access to this real-time data through an interactive dashboard on their computer or mobile device so managers can track employee hours in real time. RTLS has been proven to be effective time after time through studies done on businesses who used them successfully. Not only does this technology make life easier for managers, it also helps employees feel much safer while working late at night or when alone during shifts. With these three different options, RTLS technology offers a tracking solution for every situation.
Here are 7 ways installing an RTLS in your healthcare facility can create a safer, more efficient workplace for your staff and patients:
Increase Staff and Patient Safety
Real-time locating systems can improve workplace safety in several ways. By using RTLS in your facility, you can detect dangerous environmental conditions, monitor sensitive areas, and track and monitor staff and patients, all from a single computer or device. RTLS can improve security by ensuring employees are where they are supposed to be at any given time. These systems allow you to know where members of your team are through real-time location tracking. This is especially important in healthcare where staff and patient safety is a top priority. You can see who is where in the facility, which means that no one can go missing or become inactive without the system picking up on it.
It does not take much to imagine a scenario in the healthcare industry where a wander-prone patient or resident suddenly goes missing. Perhaps they walked out the front door unnoticed or they are lost and wandering the halls of your facility unsupervised. These things happen all the time, and without an RTLS in place to detect the situation automatically and alert the necessary staff before the situation escalates to an emergency, you will be stuck spending time, energy, and resources trying to locate someone that could have already been found and returned safely to their room.
Improve Patient Flow
Tracking patient flow using RTLS is a proven way to ensure safety and increase ROI. Every minute your equipment sits around unused, revenue is lost. Tracking the use of an MRI machine in a hospital will save money and time with quicker patient turnover and faster diagnoses and treatments. Time spent waiting and wondering when health equipment will become available for the next patient is a thing of the past. With a real-time locating system, you can be notified the minute a machine is ready for use.
An RTLS can also help to track outpatients from the time they check in until they check out. Not only does this increase safety by ensuring staff are always able to locate them, but it also increases ROI and turnover by letting staff know exactly when a patient checks out so they can prepare for the next patient. Giving outpatients an RTLS-enabled card or badge makes it easier to provide the care that they need more quickly and efficiently.
Not only can you save time and money by tracking patients but knowing where your staff is at all times is a crucial benefit of an RTLS. By knowing where care providers are, other staff may be able to save time. For example, a nurse may use a location system to see where the nearest doctor is instead of paging a doctor who may not be the closest one available. All these improvements in efficiencies yield faster patient turnovers which is great for ROI, but anyone who works in the healthcare industry knows that the real benefit of this kind of time-saving technology is that it can be the difference that saves someone’s life.
Reduce Emergency Response Times
Tracking and locating staff and patients during emergency situations is a major benefit of having RTLS in your healthcare facility. When an emergency takes place, things can get chaotic and confusing, especially for patients. Having a centralized location system that instantly notifies you of the emergency taking place as well as the location of all staff, patients, and assets in real-time is an invaluable privilege to have in a crisis situation. Compare that to manually trying to evacuate your building while maintaining order, making sure that everyone is present and accounted for, and racing around trying to locate any missing persons, and you are talking about several minutes, maybe even hours of time saved.
On top of the benefits of being able to locate staff and patients in an instant, RTLS can be a life saver in a hostile situation as well. With an RTLS badge, you could press a button that sends a silent distress signal to alert others in the vicinity of a hostile situation and discreetly call for help until assistance is received.
To say that an RTLS system can literally save lives in an emergency is not an exaggeration. When it comes to patient care, time is the ultimate resource. Seconds are lifetimes in a hospital or care facility, and reducing the time it takes to locate assets, treat patients, and locate/alert staff to dangerous situations is just as crucial a responsibility for a healthcare establishment as is properly training its staff.
Control Spread of Infections
To stop the spread of COVID-19, health officials have instructed the public to practice social distancing. Essential workers, however, do not have that option. It can be difficult for hospital staff to socially distance themselves from each other and their patients. Luckily, an RTLS can create an invisible boundary around anyone with an RFID tag and alert individuals who get too close.
As we continue to try to get the pandemic under control, many businesses have shut down, and the ones that still operate are often working with limited staff. Such is the case with many healthcare facilities. With a smaller number of staff members due to job cuts, enforced self-isolation, etc., hospitals and care facilities may find they need to monitor lone workers who find themselves working alone more often throughout the day. With no one else around to help in case of an emergency, it is important to be able to assist lone staff members at the drop of a hat, while keeping up with day-to-day operations. An active RFID system can allow you to track lone workers and provide them with a panic alarm button for emergency situations.
Minimize Replacement Costs
Apart from the boosts in safety and efficiency it provides, RTLS has other indirect benefits as well, such as saving money on replacing equipment. Often, hospitals rent their equipment from medical supply companies. With RTLS, you can track the location of the equipment as well as how often it is being used. This helps to know which equipment the hospital is getting value out of and which equipment it is renting but not using, thus making cutting costs on unnecessary rentals simple and effective.
In addition to being able to see how frequently your rental equipment is being used, you can also see the location of the equipment to prevent theft. An RTLS allows you to set boundaries for your assets so you can receive alerts when a piece of equipment is removed from the premises. Some hospital equipment can be very expensive, so having an anti-theft alert system is a smart investment in terms of security and ROI.
At the most basic level, a real-time locating system enables you to make smarter purchases. When a hospital’s executive committee gets together to determine which equipment it will buy, they need data to inform their decisions. An RTLS provides that data. Does the hospital really need that new MRI machine? Which equipment is being used frequently? Which equipment sits idle most of the time? RTLS data answers all these questions and more, and with this information hospitals can save incredible amounts of money just by being more informed about which purchases are needed and which are not.
Another great application of RTLS is optimizing staffing. In the same way you can track the location and usage of your equipment, you can also monitor the location of your staff to determine where they spend their time throughout the workday. This enables you to spot operational inefficiencies and identify staff members who frequently become inactive. Knowing this information allows you to make more informed decisions about how many and which staff members to schedule for a given day, thus preventing overstaffing or hiring undesirable employees. With increased productivity comes increased profits for business owners, but more importantly, accountability from employees.
Tracking of staff members in real time can be used to monitor employee practices and ensure that they are conducted in line with the company’s aims. Staff can also be tracked alongside assets to determine how productive each section of the workforce is. Tracking technology will enable businesses to set and enforce parameters to provide a safer working environment for employees. In turn, employees will recognize the steps that are being taken to ensure their safety by their employers and, as a result, workplace relationships and integrity will improve.
The last tangible benefit of optimizing staffing with an RTLS is increased staff satisfaction. Interview any working nurse you know, and they will likely tell you that one of the most frustrating things about working in a hospital is waiting in queue for a piece of medical equipment to become available. This frustration boils down to a poor system of communication. Hospital workers are so busy taking care of patients that they do not have time to go around asking if, for example, the X-Ray machine is still being used or how much longer it will be until a certain room is available. This kind of word-of-mouth system of communication creates gaps of inefficiency which add up to a lot of time wasted that could have been spent caring for patients, and no one feels that more than caregivers. An RTLS removes these inefficiencies entirely, and in place of frustration, staff members will be relieved and motivated to work with a system that provides them with the information they need to do their job in real-time.
Workplace Real-Time Locating Systems Can Offer Many Workplace Benefits
As you can see, real time locating systems can offer many workplace benefits. With more efficient usage of time, enhanced safety and security measures, and improved transparency, these systems can help you improve the integrity, safety and cost of your operation. Countless hours spent searching for equipment, locating missing patients or residents, looking around the facility for staff assistance instead of calling for it, all these inefficient uses of time are not only eliminated by an RTLS, but they are converted into valuable time spent focused on patient care and safety. This technology provides all users with access to real-time information about what is happening within the organization, and it fosters greater transparency than ever before. RTLS systems promote trust at all levels of the organization, making it easier to reach decisions based on up-to-date information instead of assumptions or outdated data.
If you are interested in learning more about what an RTLS system can do for your workplace, click here.
About Secure Care Products, LLC
For over 35 years, Secure Care Products, LLC has been committed to providing improved safety, security, and locating solutions through best-in-class service and innovative design for your most valuable assets. As the first company in the world to design and manufacture electronic monitoring equipment for wander-prone residents, we empower long-term care and healthcare facilities around the world. Using state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technologies, we keep people and things protected. Let us know how we can help you by calling 1.800.451.7917 or contact us.