Leverage RFID Technology Monitor traffic, track documents and improve operations BY ROBERT KURTZ


n 2013, Christus Good Shepherd Surgery Center in Longview, Texas,

was the site of a fatal stabbing that claimed the life of a nurse and visi- tor. In response, the ASC implemented numerous security measures to help reduce the likelihood of another attack. Several measures relied upon a new technology: radiofrequency identifica- tion (RFID).

RFID is a device that reads radio

waves to identify people or objects wirelessly (i.e., using a “tag”) with- out making physical contact or requir- ing a line of sight, says Jim Stilley, CASC, vice president of health care operations for Visionary Enterprises Inc. in Birmingham, Michigan. “When paired with real-time location services (RTLS), RFID can accurately locate people, places and items.” Today, Good Shepherd uses RFID

in several ways, says Monica Gabriel, RN, clinical director of the ASC’s operating rooms (OR) and post-anes- thesia care unit. “It is in staff badges to help us restrict facility access dur- ing operating hours and after hours. It also helps us control traffic better and know who is in our center and why. Our associates now feel safer and more secure at their workplace.” Stilley views RFID as an under- utilized technology in ASCs. He says most people in the ASC industry asso- ciate RFID with technology that helps prevent retained surgical sponges and instruments. As Good Shepherd’s use indicates, there are many other ways to leverage RFID. Stilley previously served as chief

executive officer of Northwest Michi- gan Surgery Center in Traverse City, Michigan. There, he spearheaded an initiative that brought RFID technol- ogy into the ASC in 2010. “I recog-

RFID company, Stilley further explored how the technology could help improve surgery center operations. “You can use RFID to track how long a patient is alone in a room, for example. Reducing this time can boost patient satisfaction. As another example, you can also use it to track staff movement and improve productivity. An analysis of one facil- ity indicated that its nursing staff fre- quently visited an area far from the ORs. They were going to the blanket warmer. By moving the blanket warmer closer to the ORs, we eliminated unnec- essary steps.” Stilley says he expects more ASCs to adopt RFID technology once it is possible


When paired with real-time location services (RTLS), RFID can accurately locate people, places and items.”

—Jim Stilley, CASC Visionary Enterprises Inc.

nized that the technology could help us track and document the movement of patients through their different phases of care. Upon arrival, patients were given a badge with an active—i.e., bat- tery-powered—RFID locator. As they moved through the facility, software automatically populated where and when this movement occurred.” Before this technology, staff needed to manually enter this information into the ASC’s software system, Stilley says. “RFID eliminated this respon- sibility and helped ensure we never missed a timestamp.” While at the ASC, and in his subse- quent position as a vice president of an

30 ASC FOCUS FEBRUARY 2019 | autoclave active RFID

locators. When that happens, he says, “we can put RFID tags onto instrument sets, kits and other pieces of OR equip- ment. This will help improve inventory tracking and management.” Depending on how an ASC plans to use RFID, adding the technology might not be a simple process, Good Shep- herd found. “We needed to undergo a risk assessment and facility assessment to determine appropriate placement of RFID technology. Our use required approval from the local fire marshal,” Gabriel says.

While implementing RFID tech-

nology might sound exciting, Stilley cautions, ASCs should not rush into the investment. “The pairing of the RFID and RTLS hardware technology and supporting software technology is critical. Assess how badges and sen- sors interact with and submit data to the software. You can have great RFID and RTLS technology, but if they are not used effectively in an overall pack- age, they will not be much value to your ASC.”

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