Robin Hildwein

At Boca Raton Regional Hospital (BRRH), we used the 2010 installation of our new CommonPath Nurse Call system to establish a more robust staff-locating and asset-tracking capability. Our old system allowed for basic staff locating tied to patient requests using badges that automatically cancelled a patient request when the caregiver entered the room. Reporting was limited with the old system, and we knew that improved reporting capabilities would have numerous benefits.

A goal for the new system was to combine functionality and reporting that could improve patient care and staff efficiency. We also wanted to implement a system that could help staff locate important equipment throughout the facility. The ability to seamlessly integrate locating capabilities into the new nurse call system was a clear advantage.

We worked with Critical Alert Systems to design and pilot the new CommonPath locating system on one floor before installing it on all of the hospital’s eight nursing floors and in the ER. Both nursing and IT staff were involved in the process, providing critical perspectives that allowed the system design to achieve a high degree of accuracy and reliability.

Using infrared technology, staff and equipment are tracked via lightweight identification badges that transmit their location to receivers in rooms and corridors throughout the hospital. Each badge transmits a unique code that identifies specific equipment as well as staff members by name and their designation as an RN or a personal care assistant (PCA).

Integration of the staff-locating system with the CommonPath nurse call means when an RN or PCA enters the patient room, the system closes the workflow request and creates a detailed electronic record of the response. We customized our system so that requests will only be closed by a response from the appropriate caregiver. Escalations are automatically triggered until the system registers that the workflow request has been fulfilled.

A key consideration, and challenge, for the new locating system was to monitor the movement of equipment from the ER to other floors. We knew that productivity was impacted whenever staff had to search to find necessary equipment, and we wanted a system that could help caregivers quickly and easily access equipment that can improve patient care.

BRRH tagged a variety of equipment to be tracked by the system – from wheelchairs, scales, hard-of-hearing phones and defibrillators to crash carts, nursing carts and computer carts. Each piece has a unique identification number that allows caregivers to locate equipment based on type, as well as a specific serial number.

In most units, a sensing device is located at each door threshold, and most patient rooms have two devices. We ran a lot of tests during our pilot phase to make sure that staff passing by a doorway would not trigger a reading from a patient room sensor. The result is a system that gives us an incredibly accurate, real-time picture of staff workflow and equipment location.

The CommonPath system connected into the existing BRRH network, and the server-side software was installed in the data center utilizing VMware – eliminating the need for a dedicated server to run the system. Staff can easily find equipment or caregivers by using one of 17 call-answer terminals located at every nursing station, or from the browser of any PC on the network. Staff accesses both the CommonPath nurse call and the locating system from these devices, and the intuitive Windows-based design requires virtually no staff training.

The screens give full visibility on the location of every piece of equipment and every staff member wearing a locating badge. The system even identifies badges in need of a charge. As a result, clinical equipment can be easily found, reducing patient wait time and giving caregivers more time to spend with their patients. Doctors and others can also quickly locate caregivers when they are needed.

The capabilities of the CommonPath staff-locating and asset-tracking system have been a boon for productivity at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. The dynamic mapping of equipment and staff is helping caregivers provide the care that’s needed, when it’s needed. Even the discharge process has been enhanced, with BRRH volunteers able to locate available wheelchairs to transport patients quickly and easily. Behind the scenes, the reporting capabilities for the locating and nurse call systems provide insight and tools for continuous improvement, as well as problem resolution.

About the Author

Melissa Durbin is vice president, chief nursing officer, Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Robin Hildwein is CIO, Boca Raton Regional Hospital. For more on Critical Alert Systems: 

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