Take a moment to think about all of the departments within a modern day hospital. There is the emergency room (ER), the intensive care unit (ICU), the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), radiology, oncology, the operating room, neurology, obstetrics, cardiology, etc. Some hospitals like Seattle Children’s have over a hundred different departments, clinics, and programs. Now consider that patients may need to visit various departments during their hospital visit and you may start to get an idea of how challenging it can be to keep track of where a patient is at any given time.
Enter patient tracking systems, a combination of software and integrated hardware used to effectively communicate a patient’s critical information and location within a hospital.
Reducing the Cost of Care
A patient tracking system relies on a series of screens and computers that allow hospital staff to continually track and display the status and location of patients throughout the hospital. It eliminates the need to have physical access to the patient’s chart, as if the patient has moved from one area to another, that chart typically moves with them. This can create some confusion for staff who are trying to locate the patient for a procedure, for laboratory tests, or even to bring them their selected meal from the cafeteria.
Because these are PC based systems, they allow interoperability with other systems that may need to be accessed to retrieve other essential information needed for care. They are also easily referenced by the hospital staff, as the individual lines are color-coded to provide a quick reference as to the status of each patient.
To quote Anna-Marie Merchant, GH Patient Care Manager, their patient tracking system
“…provides us with a clear picture of what is happening in the entire surgical department. It has certainly improved communication amongst various surgical areas at GH. The number of phone calls to and from departments and with family has significantly decreased.”
The net result is a reduction in the average patient stay, a reduced cost of providing care, and a reduction in the amount of staff that needs to be added to increase patient throughput. There is a great whitepaper by the California Health Foundation here if you’d like to see the full study.
Next generation patient tracking systems are even more highly integrated with technology to reduce the amount of input by the hospital staff and to mitigate any human error in those entries. These systems rely on an RFID tag on the patients’ hospital bracelets and RFID readers that automatically pick up the patient as they reach key locations.
We’ve all seen a multitude of screens used within the hospital environment. Every patient room typically has a screen installed for patient entertainment and education. Waiting areas throughout the hospital have screens installed as well, either for way finding or for a way to keep patients’ families and friends entertained. But what if there was a way to leverage the same patient tracking system to reduce the anxiety of waiting? Well, there is!
Reducing Waiting Room Anxiety
An added benefit of a patient tracking system is the ability to push the same data into waiting room environments so that loved ones can keep informed on the status of patients as well. If you’re worried about privacy, you need not be.
These systems allow the information to be customized to each screen the data is being sent to. To comply with HIPPA regulations for patient privacy, each patient is given a unique numeric ID. This is given to the family so that they can check the status of their loved one on the screen, without disclosing their names and procedures to the rest of the waiting public.
Studies have been done on everything from music to aromatherapy being used to reduce anxiety in waiting rooms. However, one sure fire way to help reduce this anxiety is to provide easy access to the status of each patient.
“Keeping our patients’ families updated about their loved one’s whereabouts, alleviates a lot of their anxiety and provides a more patient/ family focused experience,” notes Jan Dziepak, MDH Patient Care Manager.
For those who are not present in the waiting room, there are even virtual portals for other family members to use to keep in tune with their loved ones progress. Launch an internet browser, select the proper facility, enter the patient ID and then the patient’s progress is shown on the screen. To see an example, click here.
Of course there are some considerations to installing screens in the correct areas, as well as configuring the computers at each screen. This assures that each display presents the relevant information to either inform the staff or to comply with HIPPA and protect the privacy of patients. Handled correctly however, the system can reduce the cost of care and provide a value added service that reduces the anxiety of those waiting in the hospital as well. So if you are a hospital looking to increase efficiency and reduce the cost of providing amazing health care, integrating a patient tracking system into your facility is most likely a good start.
At Avidex AV, we are leveraging over 20 years of experience with innovative technology to drive positive business outcomes in healthcare. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.
About Jeff Miller
Jeff has been working in the professional AV integration industry for over twenty years. During that time he has served as Designer, Project Manager and/or Account Executive for hundreds of projects. As an Account Executive at Avidex, he specializes in Medical, Education, and Control Rooms. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org