A Massachusetts company has created an active RFID product for hospitals that can track patients and equipment. Bypassing normal RFID uses, Radianse, Inc. is into its second year of production, averaging about one new hospital a month. As its founder and chief technology officer, Mike Dempsey, says: “We don’t do supply chain, we don’t do security. Our goal is to make hospitals safer and more efficient.”
Mr. Dempsey says the company’s wireless Indoor Positioning System (IPS) for hospitals can improve a hospital’s efficiency while adding increased patient safety. There are three ways to do this, he added. IPS can be used to:
- Locate things, such as medical equipment, defibrillators–in other words, asset management.
- Track people, Alzheimer’s patients, cardiac patients who need powerful drugs.
- Manage work flow. “This is all about making sure the right people and right equipment are in the right location and in the right order,” said Mr. Dempsey.
The IPS can track equipment or patients using active RFID tags that can be read up to 70 feet away. Similar tags also track patients and hospital staff. It’s like a Global Positioning System, only indoors. “Since this is an active RFID solution, the receivers are more like access points–on the walls, hallways,” said Mr. Dempsey.
The IPS deploys reusable and single-use active-RFID tags and LAN or WiFi-ready receivers. A software algorithm (patent pending) determines accurate location. Radianse’s “find” applications allow users to use a web browser to find equipment or people. It’s also possible to install context-aware alerts applications for initiating actions based on location and association information (a high-risk patient is wandering from a designated area or the wrong patient is in the wrong procedure room, for example).
Patients wear the Radianse active-RFID tags from admission to discharge. The tags send continuous RF signals to Radianse receivers plugged into a hospital’s wired or wireless network. From there the signals are analyzed by Radianse location software and the results are available in a variety of ways–as part of a workflow application’s data; by querying a web-based application; or as alerts to a cell phone or pager. By tracking the patient, the Radianse IPS can also automatically record clinical events.
Radianse was created in 2000 by a team that “has a long history in medicine. We’re keenly aware of the difficulties in deploying technology solutions, particularly wireless, in a medical environment,” said Mr. Dempsey. “We searched to find the technology to solve these problems (asset management and patient/staff tracking) and we couldn’t, so we created the technology. Our solution is much more comprehensive. We’ve designed the tags, the receivers. We have nine patents pending,” he added.
Two years was spent in research and development. “We deployed our first system two years ago,” he said. “We went through a year of beta testing (at Massachusetts General) and we’ve been shipping in volume for about a year.”
Radianse currently has 15 hospitals both in the U.S. and overseas (Finland) running its IPS.
“Hospitals typically have a nine- to 15-month payback period, big, small, it’s all over the map, but the common theme is that hospitals get paid back in about a year running our system,” said Mr. Dempsey.
“It’s well documented and proven by the information our customers have provided in peer reviews, that by using the Radianse system to measure work flow, a hospital can increase its throughput in the operating room,” he added. “If you have a fixed cost to run your operating room and you could put three more patients through that operating room, that increases your revenue.”
For example, Hannibal Regional Hospital, Hannibal, MO, was able to achieve a return on investment within the first year. Its operating room utilization increased from 57% to 70%. At the same time, the hospital was able to slice its overtime in half, all thanks to Radianse’s patient location technology.
“Say you’re going to have open heart surgery. You need certain equipment in the room for that surgery, such as an external pacemaker in case something goes wrong. You also need an anesthetist, who needs to be there before the surgeon, and a scrub nurse, etc.,” explained Mr. Dempsey.
“Knowing where your staff members are, you can manage work flows around this,” he said. “And work flow impacts both safety and efficiency. For example, if you don’t have an external pacemaker on hand at the beginning of an open heart surgery, that’s a safety issue. But it’s also an efficiency issue. And there is no need for the surgeon to head to the operating room if the patient isn’t there yet.” All this can be managed by Radianse’s IPS.
With asset management, Mr. Dempsey noted that hospitals utilizing IPS also tend to rent–or buy–less equipment.
Some of the uses that Radianse’s hospital customers have found for its products may not have been in the original design plan. “Our customers are extremely creative,” said Mr. Dempsey. “Our customers are always thinking of cool ways to use our products.”
For example, one hospital, which was Radianse’s first beta site, Massachusetts General, has deployed what it calls a “patient zone of safety,” said Mr. Dempsey. If a patient is allergic to penicillin, or a certain type of blood, and that blood or penicillin gets within a meter of the patient, an alarm will sound. “It creates a sort of force field around that patient.” Radianse, Mr. Dempsey said, worked with the hospital to develop this patient zone.
“Our claim to fame, though, is this robust algorithm,” said Mr. Dempsey. “We view the world as anything that has a tag can be identified by three elements: its name, location and time. You’ve got these three descriptors; as they come together, if a piece of medical equipment ends up in a laundry room, that’s not right. Our system recognizes that and sends out a page or alarm. It’s no different then the patient with a penicillin allergy. The “patient zone of safety,” he said, is just one “example of the possibilities” available with Radianse’s IPS.
Radianse, with its 30 employees, is headquartered in Lawrence, Mass., about 30 miles north of Boston.