Technologies such as real-time location systems play a pivotal role in supporting staff and patients and addressing ongoing healthcare challenges, including workplace violence.

The need to deliver greater value for both patients and staff has accelerated due to rising patient expectations and an emphasis on enhanced clinician well-being. To meet this demand, health systems are focusing on implementing emerging digital technologies that modify an organization’s essential operations, processes, and services to ease staff workload, improve outcomes, and enhance overall safety.

Since July 2020, the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) has been tracking a key metric: whether nurses feel better prepared and supported for a potential future pandemic. Although positive responses have improved over the past year, they remain significantly lower compared to staff feedback at the onset of the pandemic. Responses to the survey also revealed that workplace violence is at an all-time high (between 70-83%), with significant correlations based on role.

Healthcare leaders have increasingly shown interest in tools that promote workforce and enterprise-wide well-being to address this concern. One such tool is location technology, specifically Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS).

RTLS have been proven to offer cost-effective solutions that ease operational burdens and enhance safety for patients and staff, enabling a more humanized experience for all. The IoT technology and location sensors behind RTLS feature active-radio frequency identification (RFID) wearable badges and tags to provide immediate, comprehensive enterprise visibility into the precise location of equipment, colleagues, or patients. These location technologies play a pivotal role in supporting staff and addressing ongoing challenges in healthcare, such as workplace violence.

According to Press Ganey, more than two U.S. nursing personnel experienced assaults every hour in Q2 2022. This equates to approximately 57 assaults per day, 1,739 assaults per month, and 5,217 assaults per quarter. The surge in violence has led to more nurses resigning or retiring early. In 2010, 40,000 nurses left the workforce, a number that doubled to 80,000 by 2020. It is projected that over 1 million registered nurses will leave the workforce by 2030.

As hospitals and other healthcare facilities grapple with the after-effects of COVID-19 along with an increased influx of patients, violence, and staffing challenges, the imperative for hospital security directors and leadership to bolster their teams, retain existing talent, and create a safe workplace environment has never been more pronounced.

Enhancing Hospital Safety in a Heightened Time of Duress Using RLTS Technology

Up to 38% of healthcare workers face physical violence at some point in their careers. Given the rising workplace violence and staffing shortages in healthcare, enterprise visibility is of utmost importance. Using advanced IoT-enabled RTLS technology incorporated into wearable staff badges allows healthcare professionals to swiftly and discreetly summon help from their exact location. In emergencies, staff can simply press a button on their badge, and the application instantly conveys their need, securely sharing their precise location. Violence shouldn’t be part of the job for healthcare professionals. Keeping the team safe is a fundamental strategy in combating burnout and promoting retention. Staff require platforms that protect them in times of crisis.

Accurate location technology, combined with secure software applications, delivers real-time map views, immediate alert notifications, and continuous location updates during a duress event. Security teams receive the solution’s alerts through various channels including computer workstations, email, SMS alerts, display monitors, VoIP phone messages, security dispatchers, and/or alarm lights/buzzers. To guarantee the precise location of staff members and swift network communication speeds, facilities should consider investing in a clinical-grade RTLS system.

When a leading academic health system in North Carolina evaluated its top challenges, the team recognized the need to extend greater support to staff potentially facing duress. Although they had an exemplary security team working relentlessly to ensure top-notch security for staff and patients, they realized the importance of a secure solution that offered real-time enterprise-level coverage for timely security responses, rather than relying on hard-wired, wall-mounted panic buttons.

The health system’s decision-makers recognized that their facility was not immune to this pressing industry issue. By adopting an RTLS safety offering early on, staff gained peace of mind, knowing they could dispatch real-time alerts from their badges and be pinpointed if in danger, rather than trying to find a hard-wired button during an incident.

Increasing Campus Awareness Through Asset Management

The COVID-19 pandemic illuminated the visibility gaps within the healthcare supply chain. As supply demand and global distribution faced disruptions and needs turned urgent, healthcare organizations wrestled with these challenges largely without technological support and established crisis plans to precisely predict and replenish asset inventories. Reports indicate that 59-83% of organizations still encounter these delays or longer lead times when acquiring supplies. Without adequate visibility, healthcare systems may struggle to properly evaluate needs and distribute supplies appropriately, undermining timely care and patient safety.

In response to this issue, 81% of healthcare organizations have adjusted their inventory levels. Alternatively, RTLS enhances visibility through asset management solutions. This IoT-enabled technology uses asset tags to identify the exact location and status of essential equipment needed for patient care, reducing the time teams spend searching for or procuring equipment. Without these asset management solutions, obscured visibility can impede care, diminish equipment maintenance, inadvertently propagate diseases, adversely affect patient outcomes, and inflate purchasing costs.

Healthcare facilities can bolster their RTLS asset tracking solutions with room-level locating to automate workflows such as PAR-level management and preventive maintenance functions, and to ensure cleanliness. Supply chain managers and other healthcare administrators can harness the system’s backend to monitor PAR levels in real time and exploit its advanced reporting and analytics features to spot inefficient inventory utilization.

To tackle significant inefficiencies related to managing mobile medical equipment and determining equipment utilization and purchasing requirements, Mission Hospital integrated location services. Consequently, the hospital witnessed a marked decrease in lost or stolen devices rate, reaped annual savings of $200,000, achieved a 50% surge in staff satisfaction, and gained deep insights into its equipment distribution and maintenance issues.

Improving Patient Safety and Experience with Workflow Insights

A crucial aspect of the patient experience involves ensuring patients and their loved ones remain safe, comfortable, and well-informed throughout the care journey. To accomplish this, healthcare organizations are keen on fortifying communication channels between every involved party. By integrating RTLS visibility with potent patient workflow software, automated family text messaging features can relay real-time updates to patient-approved contacts as patients progress through care phases. Facilities that have adopted this tool have observed a growth in trust, clarity, and safety among patients, medical staff, and families. Additionally, RTLS implementations can facilitate automated proactive patient communications, sharing status updates, wait times, and digital navigation instructions.

Facilities leveraging RTLS have reported a reduction in non-value-added time during patient visits, leading to elevated patient and staff satisfaction levels. This technology empowers providers with an at-a-glance view of patient wait times and readiness, enhancing daily workflow efficiency and enabling them to dedicate more time to quality patient care, which translates to improved patient outcomes.

RTLS Enables Enterprise Visibility – Either All at Once or Over Time

When exploring RTLS options, it’s advisable to consider strategic partners offering a comprehensive suite of solutions. Such an approach facilitates system expansion to other areas of the facility’s campus and operations in the future. Often, staff duress and asset management solutions introduce healthcare facilities to RTLS, and from there, location systems can be scaled to provide additional visibility as required.

A seasoned RTLS vendor will ensure that initial investments provide a solid foundation to support and enable additional use cases. For instance, investing in a location platform that offers real-time visibility solutions can aid a health system in detecting inefficiencies in OR room turnover. Once identified, these can be rectified with an RTLS-enabled solution that manages staff workflows and patient flow efficiently.

Amid heightened expectations and challenges, healthcare organizations must leverage technological advances like RTLS to ensure their facility stays at the cutting edge of safety and patient experience. Implementing real-time enterprise visibility within healthcare operations can foster an environment that feels safe and secure for staff, resulting in improved patient outcomes, optimized facility operations, and an overall superior experience for all involved parties.

Scott Hondros is the Vice President of Customer Excellence & Strategic Consulting at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise. 

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