Carolinas HealthCare Employing RFID System

An RFID-enabled, real-time location system (RTLS) is being implemented at the twenty different hospitals of the Carolinas Healthcare System. The RTLS will be utilized for tracking about 5,000 medical devices and equipment at the facilities. The deployment was described in the RFID Journal.

The organization completed a pilot project at one facility, the Carolinas Medical Center. Following positive results, RTLS was rolled out to all the hospitals within the care system. A number of reasons motivated the implementation. Hospitals will be better able to track timing of required maintenance of equipment, as well as ensure that necessary equipment is in the right location when it needed.

The system being implemented will use the existing Cisco 802.11 Wi-Fi access points already installed across the hospitals. 2.4 GHz RFID tags are from Ekahau, which work effectively with the 802.11 Wi-Fi system. The tags utilize CR2 lithium batteries for power, which are commercially available off-the-shelf and have a five year shelf life.

Equipment that is tagged emits its unique identifier when in a resting position following movement. Tag transmissions are received by Wi-Fi access points around the facilities. These are then transmitted to a central server in Charlotte at the Carolinas Medical Centers which uses Ekahau Positioning Engine (EPE) software to determine the location of tagged equipment, based on tag signal strength.

The EPE provides real-time tracking for more than 10,000 different objects using one server. Up to 600 locations can be determined in a one second timeframe. Location is determined within, on average, one meter. A web-based browser allows employees to access tracking data; including the location of tagged devices in a particular area, searches for specific equipment, and data about a specific area.

October 31, 2007 Related topics: Facilities, Trends, Supply chain/SCM, IT & software, Materials Management

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