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Bluewater Health to install RTLS technology

Sue DenomySARNIA – Bluewater Health is installing a new system that will monitor the location of equipment, and in the future, staff and patients too. The bluetooth-powered real-time location service (RTLS) is coming to Bluewater Health sites in Sarnia and Petrolia within the next nine months.

Starting in January, Bluewater Health equipment maintenance staff will be installing 3,500 wireless beacons throughout the hospitals, as well as tagging equipment with emitters so items can be tracked and monitored with pinpoint accuracy.

Short-term, the goal is to keep tabs on all Bluewater Health’s equipment, CEO and president Sue Denomy (pictured) told the Sarnia Observer. “For example, we have hundreds of IV pumps across several departments,”  she said.

As a result, it’s hard to keep tabs on what is where and how often it has been used, she said, noting staff sometimes are forced to run around looking for pumps if one isn’t at hand.

“To have them sitting in an inpatient ward unused when emerge needs one is not a good use of technology,”  she said.

Not only that, but the hospital corporation, and others like it, likely have too many IV pumps for the very reason that they’re hard to track, said facilities director Alex Sullo.

RTLS will make finding and using equipment like the pumps easier, while also determining what is needed, and what’s excess, he said.

Also under the new monitoring system, headed up by Bluewater Health’s biomedical engineering department, front-line staff who feel they’re at risk can voluntarily wear a distress beacon they can activate if, for example, a patient becomes violent, he said.

Real-time wireless temperature and humidity tracking for food and medications throughout the hospitals is also part of the deal. Bluewater Health is one of the first hospitals in Canada to adopt the technology, Sullo said.

Via supplier Awarepoint, the start-up costs are pegged at about $720,000 – already accounted for in Bluewater Health’s budget – with yearly operating costs at about $71,000, he said.

The system would also be housed regionally, he said, meaning other hospitals in Erie St. Clair – Sarnia-Lambton, Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex – could easily get on board.

Longer-term, there are some interesting possibilities, he said.

One example involves a doctor entering her patient’s room and that patient’s chart automatically popping up on a tablet screen, since the system identifies each person by their tag, patient wristband or cell phone.

That same doctor heads over to the sink to wash her hands and the system can track and record that that’s happening too, he said.

There will be no patient monitoring when the system starts, he said, but that could be something the hospital group considers down the road, noting it would require talks about privacy and confidentiality.

Hopes are to eventually merge the technology with other hospital systems, like security camera and patient entertainment systems, so that they work together to improve stays and make operations run smoother, he said.

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