There are several technology choices when it comes to tracking people and equipment in a healthcare environment using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Two popular choices supported on the GuardRFID AllGuard platform are 2.4GHz Wi-Fi and 433MHz. When deciding on the best option, it’s worth taking a thorough look at your organization’s needs and use-case, as there are different advantages to both.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the reasons why the Wi-Fi protocol option is an excellent choice for delivering support in the event of staff duress, and general asset tracking.
Wi-Fi Backgrounder: Leveraging existing Wi-Fi infrastructure
Both Wi-Fi and 433MHz RTLS systems use tags, readers, exciters and software. Tags are worn on the body or attached to equipment. Tags send beacon messages at pre-defined intervals or when they detect the proximity of a tag exciter. These messages are received by multiple tag readers which forward the message and signal strength to a server. Server software interprets the data and shows each tag’s location on a floorplan.
One of the benefits of using Wi-Fi technology is its lower cost during the installation phase. Since Wi-Fi leverages existing network infrastructure to receive the messages from the tags, only a minimal number of tag readers and exciters are required. If a healthcare facility determines it’s necessary to scale the range of their RTLS solution to additional areas—for example, new storage areas, rooms or floors—it’s possible to expand the system by adding more tags and readers/exciters.
The Wi-Fi RTLS solution is generally less expensive to install than 433MHz due to fewer devices that are required, although power is still necessary for those devices that are installed. There may also be a need to institute additional Wi-Fi access points to meet the organization’s need for optimal coverage and location accuracy.
Supporting staff under duress
Protecting the safety and security of staff in the workplace is of the utmost importance, and an RTLS solution using Wi-Fi Staff tags adds a layer of safety and security to every occupational health and safety program.
In healthcare, staff—and particularly nursing and long-term care staff—are at a disproportionately higher risk of becoming victims of violence in the workplace. Wi-Fi Staff tags with a call button, pull duress and Man Down capabilities enable an alert to be triggered. This immediately initiates a configurable response such as an audible alarm which can help to defuse a situation, or the deployment of authorized personnel like security guards.
A second feature is the “Check-In” capability, in which staff press a button at regular intervals to confirm that they are safe. If the Check-In signal is not received, an alert is triggered and staff can reach out to contact the employee to determine their well-being, or go to investigate. This can be a useful feature when staff members are working in isolation in areas where there may be a threat to their safety (for example hospital lab technicians working with infectious samples, or healthcare staff helping violent patients).
A solution for general asset tracking
Wi-Fi tags help prevent equipment assets from being stolen or misplaced. They are an effective security tool in healthcare facilities where all medical equipment has a high value.
Being able to locate critical equipment quickly—like ventilators, infusion devices and patient monitors—increases patient safety. In a busy hospital dealing with surges of incoming patients, finding equipment assets in the least amount of time also saves medical staff valuable minutes and even hours every day. Since Wi-Fi tags are greater in size than 433MHz tags, they are appropriate for larger medical equipment or machines. Integration between RTLS and equipment monitoring systems can be used for ‘Smarter Asset Tracking,’ whereby the system knows when equipment is in use, or needs servicing. This allows nursing staff to search for available equipment of a certain type.
Wi-Fi Asset tags are typically larger than 433MHz tags as they use more power. The batteries are replaceable however, and when using rechargeable batteries, individual tag costs are reduced in comparison to 433MHz tags—which are sealed and waterproof—but do not allow battery replacement. Another benefit of the ST-4-WiFi tag is that it supports wireless charging, while all Wi-Fi tags also feature over the air configuration and software update. The Wi-Fi Tag Charger can charge up to 10 Wi-Fi Staff Tags simultaneously to help minimize tag downtime.
For more information on how an RTLS solution and Wi-Fi tags will increase the security of your facility, contact us for a free consultation.