Tracking Results

By  Susan Nunziata — September 04, 2009

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Florida's Tallahassee Memorial Hospital (TMH) was an early adopter, making its first foray into wireless asset tracking over its Cisco WLAN in 2006. But it wasn't until the organization deployed an Aeroscout tagging solution, upgraded its wireless network and added the Cisco Mobility Services Engine that it began to achieve the results it had originally envisioned.

That deployment went live in March 2009 and is already reaping rewards. For example, the materials management department was incurring expenses of approximately $100,000 a year in replacement costs for equipment that they knew was somewhere in the facility but couldn't be located. Already they're projecting a savings of $50,000-$70,000 for the year in those expenses alone, according to TMH's Jay Adams, IT Enterprise Architect.

TMH is a regional healthcare provider with 3,500 employees, 400 staff physicians and a total of 31 buildings on its campus.

It needed a way to track a vast array of assets -- everything from wheelchairs and blood pressure cuffs to infusion pumps and wireless IV devices -- across three key buildings which house its main tower of patient rooms, its women's pavilion and its pharmacy, covering a total of some 800,000 square feet.

Some 2,000 Aeroscout 802.11a/n tags were deployed to track the equipment and the Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) infrastructure was redesigned. The existing WLAN couldn't handle the load and it wasn't location-grade, says Adams.

"We had a data design [for our WLAN] initially, where access points are lined up down the middle of the hallway," he explains. "When our location-grade design was put in, we moved all the access points to the perimeter of the facility with all the antennas pointing into the facility, instead of using an omni-directional setup, which most people would for deploying a data network."

The redesign also required doubling the number of wireless access points in the environment. "When you're tracking an asset you need to make sure you have enough RF energy in the room where your asset is sitting," says Adams. "But also, depending on what corner of the room it's sitting in, you need to be assured that when that tag chirps that an access point, or at least three of them, are going to hear that nearby."

Now, the WLAN supports VoIP, data and location-based services.

Accuracy has skyrocketed. The previous system was only accurate about 40% of the time, says Adams. Now, equipment can be tracked down to within four to 15 feet. In addition, Adams says, the Aeroscout Mobile View system is so easy to use that nurses, clinicians and maintenance staff, and anyone else who is given access, can log onto it through the company's Intranet, use the search tool to seek a piece of equipment by name (rather than needing a tag number or MAC address), narrow the search to a specific floor and quickly locate the nearest item.

The maintenance crews have experienced some of the most dramatic time savings. Prior to the system going in, if a piece of equipment needed periodic maintenance, workers would have to literally go out and scour the floors looking for it. Two workers would spend anywhere from eight to 15 hours doing a room-to-room search for the equipment. Now, they can log on and get to a device in about 10 minutes, says Adams.

The facility is continuing to rollout the Aeroscout tags, and expects to have a total of 3,000 deployed within the next 12 months.

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