Smart Healthcare Facilities:
Design & Construction Considerations
Design & Construction Considerations
The value of deploying a real-time locating system (RTLS) within a healthcare facility is multifold – increased patient throughput, greater utilization of medical equipment, and improved patient and staff safety and satisfaction. As with any technology implementation, this value must be weighed against the financial, staffing and time resources required. That is why in healthcare design and construction, careful consideration of your short and long-term uses of RTLS and desired success outcomes can significantly reduce the overall cost of implementation, allow for a faster go-live, and optimize performance.
Goals and Objective
While most healthcare facilities are aware of RTLS in the realm of asset tracking, today’s technology can be applied to more advanced applications, such as patient locating, workflow automation, and PAR-level management. Having a clear definition of your short and long-term goals for your solution will help you leverage your investment. The optimum RTLS solution will allow you to take a phased approach, adding applications and use cases as needed to build out a complete suite of intelligence that allows you to fully realize your operational strategy goals.
Healthcare Facility Design Considerations
As each technology has its pros and cons, it is critical to understand the preferred environment of each technology to maximize its advantages and minimize the risks related to signal interference.
In healthcare design and construction, the following considerations should be taken into account to maximize your RTLS system.
- Waiting Rooms
One of the benefits of an RTLS system is patient self-rooming, where patients proceed directly from registration to the exam room, bypassing the waiting room. This concept decreases the need for large waiting rooms and reduces the cost of construction. Consider the planned use of the locating system when designing your facility, so the RTLS solution can help enhance patient flow and maximize space utilization.
- Wi-Fi Infrastructure
As you make plans for Wi-Fi infrastructure to support modern healthcare IT systems and devices, it’s important to understand how your RTLS system can leverage the Wi-Fi infrastructure (e.g. for communication backhaul and/or for locating) and if there are any gaps in coverage or design that should be addressed early on.
- Cable Trays
Some locating technologies require hard-wiring of some or all of the system components. Be prepared to accommodate the need for extra cables and the proper positioning of cable trays.
- Walls and Floors
There are a number of technologies utilized for real-time locating, such as infrared, Wi-Fi and ultrasound. It is important to understand how the performance of each is impacted by the type of material used for walls and flooring. For instance, glass walls and light-reflective floors can interfere with an infrared signal, producing less accurate location information. Additionally, lead walls make a radio frequency (RF) signal difficult to transmit.
Because locating technologies require an installation of the sensory network, the ceiling type should allow for attachment of the sensors (beacons, transmitters, exciters) and for easy access to sensors to perform battery replacement or system calibration. Drop ceilings with standard grids are preferred over hard-lid ceilings.
- Open Areas
It is important to consider how each RTLS hardware technology can support effective locating in open areas. In large, open areas, locating hardware should be installed to provide adequate coverage of the area. The ability to create “virtual walls” should also be considered.
RTLS Software Considerations
When evaluating software partners, consider not only how the software integrates with the RTLS hardware, but how it integrates with other healthcare IT systems, such as EHRs, nurse call systems, building systems, security systems, CMMS systems, communication systems, mobility solutions, patient transport solutions, and medical device connectivity solutions. While many healthcare organizations may start with just one application, such as asset management, almost every healthcare system desires to expand their use of RTLS over time. When planning for an RTLS system keep in mind all possible use cases, the needed integrations, and their impact on facility design.
- Asset Locating
- Asset Optimization
- PAR-Level Management
- Clinic Patient Flow
- Staff Workflow
- Inpatient Care
- Cath Lab Supply Tracking
- Surgical Instrument Tracking
- Environmental Monitoring
- Temperature/CO2 Monitoring
- Patient Elopement
- Oxygen Tank Monitoring
- Infection Control/Contact Tracing
- Staff Back-Up
- Bed Management & Transportation
The software solution adds context to the location data – answering the “how” and “why” – by taking in the data in and visualizing it via dashboards, list views, map views, messaging and reporting solutions. This allows for real-time management of processes and workflow. It also allows you and your leadership team to analyze trends, identify improvement opportunities within the organization, and report on key performance indicators (KPIs).
Software partners under consideration should be able to answer:
- How do you integrate real-time location data with other healthcare IT systems?
- What data will we receive?
- What data is provided on your reporting dashboard?
RTLS Hardware Considerations
There is a wide variety of granularity and accuracy levels that RTLS hardware vendors can provide. The “who is best” answer depends entirely on your goals and objectives, specific use case requirements, the facility layout, and the IT budget. It is critical to make sure the RTLS hardware can accomplish desired outcomes.
RTLS vendors under consideration should be able to answer:
- What is the locating technology used by your RTLS hardware?
- How many different locating technologies are supported by your tags?
- How do your tags use our 802.11 Wi-Fi network?
- Describe the granularity of your RTLS hardware (i.e., room-level, bay-level, etc.).
- Describe the accuracy of your RTLS hardware (what percentage of time the location of a tagged asset/person is determined correctly).
- Describe the latency of your RTLS hardware (how much time does it take for the system to detect the location change)
- Describe any wiring requirements for your RTLS infrastructure.
- For any devices that are battery-powered (including monitors and tags, for instance), explain the battery life for each such device that supports the required granularity and accuracy.
While real-time locating systems have only had a 15-20% adoption rate in healthcare facilities, more and more healthcare leaders are realizing the value location-based intelligence can add in improving operational efficiencies, the safety and satisfaction of both patients and staff, as well as reduce costs. If your organization is contemplating a remodel or new construction, this document gives you a foundational perspective on the types of solutions and questions to consider to help make this technology a successful addition to your healthcare design and construction plan.