Real-time location system (RTLS) technology has been an efficiency game-changer across several industries since its inception more than 40 years ago.

The first generation was introduced in the form of barcode scanners and RFID tags in the 1980s, which allowed companies to track and manage inventory in real time.

Today, RTLS has extended from a simple retail focus into a sophisticated, full-scope tool that’s proven monumental within complex healthcare environments — from facilitating admissions and patient-staff safety, to bolstering hospital HCAHPS scores and bottom lines.

Dive into the many uses of RTLS, why it’s essential in modern healthcare and how the right location-tracking solution can transform your facility.

Why RTLS in Healthcare? Why Now?

The nursing workforce has faced high demands, increased burnout and several staffing challenges since the onset of COVID-19 — and most of these issues are still prevalent today. Why?

It’s now more crucial than ever to invest in tackling these issues head-on, and strategic RTLS solutions may be your answer. From the OR to the ICU, customized integrations can help with everything from real-time staff and equipment tracking to automized room, patient and procedure activities.

But first, get familiar with the different types of RTLS and the unique capabilities of each.

The 4 Core Types of RTLS

While RTLS systems come in dozens of forms — ranging from basic bar codes to advanced Bluetooth systems — these four are most commonly and specifically used in the healthcare industry:

  • Wi-Fi: This leverages existing and additional Wi-Fi to locate and track assets or individuals. These systems especially benefit large healthcare facilities, due to their scalability and compatibility with existing equipment. However, your Wi-Fi network must have the bandwidth to handle it.
  • Infrared: These RTLS systems use infrared signals to pinpoint the location of a tagged object or person, using line-of-sight (LoS) technology to track high room-level accuracy. These infrared systems don’t have strict LoS limitations in place yet, often leading to privacy concerns.
  • Ultra-Wide Band (UWB): UWB RTLS systems rely on low-power digital radio signals for precise location tracking. While known for high accuracy and low latency, it requires a new and dedicated infrastructure that can become quite costly.
  • Ultrasound: Utilizing sound waves (instead of light or radio waves) to measure a signal’s travel time, these systems come with several distinct advantages for accuracy and resistance to electronic interference. While they may have some environmental constraints, their unparalleled accuracy in tracking people and equipment in real-time makes them an optimal choice for healthcare environments.

If your healthcare environment isn’t on board with RTLS yet, it may be time to reevaluate current infrastructure and see how these new solutions can integrate with it.

The manner in which you deploy RTLS is up to you and your fellow healthcare leaders, but the safety and efficiency outcomes have proven more than worthwhile.

How RTLS with West-Com Solves Critical Healthcare Issues

At West-Com, we’ve always been ahead of the trends. Having existed as long as RTLS itself, and after years of research, testing and feedback, we’ve found the “ultrasound” approach comes out on top in terms of ease, efficiency and long-term cost savings.

Our RTLS partnerships with companies like the leading ultrasound tech provider, Sonitor, accommodate existing systems for a hassle-free integration, complete with clear upgrade paths and minimal training.

Let’s take that ultrasound RTLS technology and apply it to real-life, day-to-day hospital scenarios. Leveraging our Connect™ system, these are just a few of the many gaps an RTLS solutions can address:

Patient & Staff Safety

Emergency alerts can be instantly initiated from staff badges in case of panic, duress or whenever else an emergency response is needed.

West-Com’s proprietary Call Assurance feature uses Patient CareBoards™ to display the images of staff members when they enter a room, providing patients with reassurance and an extra measure of safety regarding who is on their care team.

This attention to detail is especially pertinent for patient-staff safety within behavioral healthcare environments, helping reduce risks like aggression, seclusion and violence.

Patient & Staff Tracking

RTLS offers real-time analytics to monitor staff movement, offering insights that can help optimize workflow and resource allocation, as well as safety. Ultrasound technology tracks staff location live, without invading nurse or patient privacy.

Foolproof Equipment Management

Always know the precise location of your equipment and patient devices. RTLS via ultrasound ensures all components can be easily found when a need for use arises, saving time and energy often wasted in futile attempts to get patients connected to devices required for their care.

Accuracy for High-Volume Areas

Striving to make critical care settings like the OR and ICU more efficient, RTLS enhances these busy areas by:

  • Automating and coordinating surgery activities: Identify bottlenecks, increase case volume
  • Automating updates on patient and case statuses: Improve communication and patient satisfaction
  • Automating room and procedure status: Minimize OR suite downtime; eliminate bottlenecks
  • Improving staff awareness: Boost productivity and operational efficiency

Improved Infection Control

RTLS can track contact with contagious patients’ rooms to help monitor the risk and spread of infection.

Employ Customized RTLS Solutions with West-Com

Through our proprietary solutions — and integration partnerships with health-tech leaders like Sonitor, we’re here to meet your healthcare environment’s needs.

Ready to talk specifics on efficiency, safety and ROI with RTLS? Schedule a demo.