10 Steps to Consider When Implementing RTLS in Healthcare

17 April 2020

The prospect of introducing a Real-Time Location System (RTLS) to your healthcare organization may seem intimidating, especially if your organization spans across multiple locations. But the benefits of deploying an RTLS are so compelling that you can hardly afford not to introduce an RTLS. The key to successfully implementing an RTLS is to create a strategic plan that breaks the process down into manageable steps. Below is a look at the benefits an RTLS offers and ten steps to consider when implementing RTLS in healthcare.

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What are the benefits of introducing an RTLS to your healthcare system?

"Next-generation RTLS technology is as transformative to hospital operations as Uber is to personal transportation... Just as Uber eliminates the waiting and uncertainty associated with personal transportation, RTLS eliminates hours of searching, repetitive calling and paging to locate people and equipment, all the while automatically tracking key metrics to analyze workflows." - Ari Naim, Contributor, Becker Hospital Review
Before diving into the measures you can take to implement an RTLS, it is helpful to review a few of the key reasons why healthcare executives would want to invest in an RTLS. From time savings to a more streamlined workflow, here are some benefits of introducing RTLS in healthcare.

  • Enhanced department workflows as patients move more efficiently from the waiting room to the exam room to a patient room
  • An improved patient experience that unfolds when clinical staff can locate necessary equipment faster to proceed with treatment
  • Superior equipment management and preventive maintenance
  • Improved room utilization as staff have access to real-time movement of patients and equipment

Learn more about RTLS in Healthcare

What are ten steps to help you successfully introduce an RTLS?

Clearly, there are many reasons to implement an RTLS. And while the nation's top hospital asset tracking systems are designed to be easy to roll out, the key to a streamlined implementation is to have a well-organized plan in place. Below is your step-by-step guide to introducing an RTLS.

Step One: Secure buy-in from stakeholders and your leadership team

The path to a successful RTLS launch begins with the support of your owners, executives, and department managers. Some leaders may bristle at the idea of change, worrying about the initial expense and potential disruptions to productivity. But if hospital leaders receive your RTLS with open arms, your frontline staff will typically follow suit. Here are some ways to generate enthusiasm and secure the support of your leadership team:

  • Outline the specific benefits. Make sure department heads know exactly how the RTLS will benefit their departments.
  • Highlight estimated financial gains. Providing an exact dollar amount is nearly impossible. However, you can provide projected financial gains.
  • Emphasize the ease of use. Reassure stakeholders that introducing an RTLS will not interfere with hospital productivity or patient care.
  • Reference specific success stories. Cite the financial success other hospitals are enjoying by using an RTLS. Here is an example:
    "In the first year of redeploying its RTLS, Texas Health saved $412,000. This is hard savings, minus cost of RTLS, employee salaries and benefits." - Bill Siwicki, Healthcare IT News

Step Two: Outline the goals you wish to achieve with your RTLS

Now that your leadership team has embraced the idea of implementing an RTLS, your leadership group needs to be on the same page with respect to your ultimate goals for introducing the system. Outlining your goals will also help you select the type of RTLS to implement at your medical facility. Here are some of the most common goals hospitals hope to achieve through RTLS implementation:

  • Decrease asset search time
  • Reduce the number of stolen medical devices
  • Minimize emergency incident time
  • Decrease the amount of money spent on equipment repairs
  • Reduce the need for costly spur of the moment equipment rentals

Step Three: Make a list of your existing software systems

Every hospital or medical facility has existing technology platforms, many of which will need to be integrated with your RTLS. The integration process should begin by creating a comprehensive list of the software systems being used in each department. Common examples include general hospital management software, accounting software, and operating room management systems.

Step Four: Obtain baseline measurements prior to implementation

Measuring the impact of your RTLS is essential to justifying future usage. This measurement process begins with a baseline measurement of the key performance indicators you outlined when you set your goals in Step Two. With baseline figures in place you can then calculate any differences that occur and determine whether they are statistically significant. Here are a couple of examples using the hypothetical goals referenced in Step Two:

  • Total number of medical equipment rentals in 2019: 450.
  • Total amount of capital spent on rentals: $390,000.
  • Average time spent searching for medical devices in 2019: 32.5 minutes.
  • Total amount of money spent on equipment repairs in 2019: $360,000.

Step Five: Determine the degree of location accuracy you require

RTLS solutions vary in terms of the degree of specificity they offer. For example, some systems provide an estimated location of a device by indicating the hospital unit where the device is located. Other solutions offer a much greater degree of specificity or certainty, identifying the exact patient room and space where the device is located. Before selecting a solution, review your workflow applications and budget to determine what type of system best meets your needs.

Step Six: Seek a speedy solution

"Equipment tracking with the use of RTLS also saves time for facility staff. Being able to know the exact location of a tagged piece of equipment provides staff clear direction for retrieval — and ultimately allows them to spend more time with patients." - Josh Kelly and Nikki Tuft, Health Facilities Management

Ideally the RTLS solution you select will be responsive and able to detect activity between devices, staff, and patients immediately. Slow systems interfere with accuracy, preventing you from capturing real-time data on equipment. With a speedy system, on the other hand, you can capture mileposts right away, thereby improving efficiency.

Step Seven: Use care when selecting device tags

The efficiency of your RTLS hinges on the reliability of the tags you select. Tags should be constructed with high quality materials and feature long-life batteries. Many hospitals use infrared tags, as they are relatively simple to use. However, the type of tag you use should reflect your goals for introducing an RTLS in the first place. Tag selection should also reflect the value of the assets you are tagging. Here are some tips to consider with tag selection:

  • Battery life: Look for tags with a minimum battery life of 18 months and offer notification that replacement batteries are needed.
  • Cost: A $60 high-tech tag makes sense if you are tracking a $250,000 C-arm or $50,000 anesthesia machine. But not if you are tracking $100 stools.
  • False positives: Tags for radio-based systems are relatively inexpensive but tend to produce more false positives, which can waste time. 

Step Eight: Consider your facility's future when selecting a system

Scalability is a key factor to think about as you plan to launch your RTLS. Specific points to consider include any upcoming plans for expansion, acquisition, or merger with other healthcare centers. Selecting a system that can easily be introduced to new wings and new sister hospitals will help your healthcare organization operate smoothly and with minimal disruption as growth occurs. 

Step Nine: Schedule comprehensive training sessions for your staff

Transparency and communication with frontline staff is vital to a smooth roll-out of your RTLS. Employees need to understand how the system will impact their duties and how it will make their jobs easier. They also need an opportunity to ask questions and express any thoughts or concerns about the system.
The most effective way to achieve these objectives is to schedule a comprehensive training initiative that involves initial education, multi-step training, and refresher courses. Additionally, FAQ sheets should be prepared and posted in highly visible locations for employees to easily access. 

Step Ten: Periodically review and update your RTLS

Successful RTLS implementation does not occur in a vacuum. Progress should be reviewed on a regular basis, especially in the formative months following rollout. Through regular reviews and analysis of outcomes, you can identify opportunities for improvement and make any necessary changes. Here are some tips to ensure that you conduct an efficient review:

  • Consider forming a small committee of leaders who can review your RTLS and summarize performance results.
  • Create a quarterly review schedule for committee leaders. Meetings should occur more regularly immediately following rollout.
  • Quantify financial outcomes. For example, you can describe how your hospital saved $225,000 by lowering the rate of missing equipment.

What is the single most important step to take when implementing Real Time Location System in Healthcare?

RTLS implementation is not a fast or simple process. By following the ten steps above, you can ensure that the process unfolds as smoothly and quickly as possible. But even more important than these measures is choosing a trusted software provider with a proven track record of success in healthcare. By selecting a proven industry expert, you can help ensure that you achieve your RTLS goals and continue to improve your hospital's efficiency. 
The single best step to take when considering RTLS implementation is to schedule a discovery call with a Kontakt.io specialist. During this discovery call, you can learn how Kontakt.io can help you achieve the following:

  • Straightforward and efficient system setup
  • True cloud adoption
  • Time and cost savings
  • Improved patient safety
  • Compatibility with your existing hardware
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction

Reach out to the Kontakt.io team today! We look forward to helping your hospital become a model of efficiency and high quality care. 
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Aneta Ciurkot

Director, Product Marketing

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