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How Radio Waves Remedy Patient Bottlenecks

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, August 23, 2011

RFID tags have for a while been used mainly for things—to keep track of the number of bandages left in the supply closet or to keep an expensive piece of equipment from walking out the door, for example. Increasingly, though, those badges are showing up on the lapels of patients. And hospitals are using the data those RFID badges gather to improve patient flow, shorten length of stay, and more.

Wilmington, DE–based Christiana Care Health System pins patients with RFID tags to track their movements throughout the continuum of care. The collected data is an "extremely powerful" tool for process improvement, says Linda Laskowski-Jones, vice president of emergency and trauma services for the two-hospital system.

The system tracks interval-level data—measuring the time a patient spends in between each activity—from the time they see a doctor to the time the doctor orders labs or an x-ray, for example.

Each department can see exactly where a patient is in the process—radiology gets an alert when the patient is ready for his or her scan, the doctor knows when the test results are ready and also knows where to find the patient to deliver those results.

The data also helps the organization spot wasted time and bottlenecks. It showed that a synchronous discharge model was more effective in the ED, for example.

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