Study: RTLS systems can save hospitals $750K a year

A study of the use of a real-time location system (RTLS) at Southeastern Regional Medical Center indicates the technology can save hospitals hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, improve clinical outcomes and boost staff morale.

The study, conducted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), analyzed the use of RadarFind’s RTLS system at the Lumberton, N.C. hospital. According to the results, soon to be published in the Journal of Clinical Engineering, the technology, used to track mobile medical equipment, saved the hospital nearly $750,000 in indirect costs, as well as reducing the time spent by staff in searching for medical equipment by 96 percent.

Other benefits were noticed, researchers said, in improved clinical outcomes – driven by increased operational efficiency – and improved staff morale.

“The level of data generated by these systems has the potential to profoundly change the management of technology and the delivery of patient care,” said Barbara Christe, the lead researcher for the study team and associate professor and program director of Biomedical Engineering Technology at IUPUI.

RTLS systems like those developed by RadarFind, based in Morrisville, N.C., are being deployed in hospitals around the company to keep tabs on all kinds of medical equipment, from beds and wheelchairs to crash carts and IV stands. Such systems, employing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, allow staff to quickly locate equipment in an emergency and cut down on wasteful uses or lost items.

According to SRMC officials involved in the study, nurses spent at least an hour a day searching for equipment before the RadarFind technology was introduced. Using the technology, the 120 nurses at the hospital were able to save the hospital roughly $750,000 in indirect costs – and use that extra hour to spend more time with their patients.

According to the study, nursing staff could do their jobs more efficiently because they could quickly find “hidden” equipment, improving both the caregiving process and nurses’ morale.

“As a former nurse I understand the frustration experienced by nursing staff when they must search for equipment,” said Joanne Anderson, president and chief executive officer of SRMC. “This technology supports our nurses and enables them to spend more time caring for patients, ensuring that our patients receive the utmost quality of care and benefiting hospital staff morale.”

In addition, the study found that clinical engineering staff reduced time spent searching for equipment from four hours a day to less than 10 minutes, while preventive maintenance for tagged equipment improved from a monthly rate of 90 percent to a consistent 100 percent. Also, the RadaFind technology – which uses a color-coded system to identify items available, in use and in need of cleaning – allowed the hospital to improve its infection control measures.

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