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SUNY Upstate Medical University Deploys Asset Tracking and Temperature Monitoring

SUNY Upstate Medical University, part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, has implemented AeroScout's WiFi-based asset management and temperature monitoring software. University Hospital decided to install AeroScout's MobileView software and WiFi tags to leverage the hospital's Cisco Unified Wireless Network. The first phase of the deployment was completed in November 2008. Since installation, the hospital has found that operating room throughput and on-time start rates have improved owing to faster searches for and retrieval of medical equipment.

The hospital, located in Syracuse, is an academic medical center consisting of four colleges. Its 1.3 million square-foot, 366-bed University Hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center serving the central New York region. SUNY Upstate recently installed a second-generation wireless network designed specifically to enable voice and location services. Working with NEC, its long-term communications integration partner, University Hospital completed the site survey and installation of the new Cisco Unified Wireless Network in late 2007. NEC also helped the hospital upgrade its core switching network.

The management team recognized an opportunity to leverage its wireless network to better use its mobile medical equipment, including beds, wheelchairs, expensive rental equipment, and 600 IV pumps, all of which are constantly moving throughout the facility. According to Terry Wagner, University Hospital's CIO, improving asset management and equipment usage is always a challenge for any healthcare provider, and the hospital wanted to use its existing wireless network to help drive operational efficiency.

The hospital is using the AeroScout solution in a variety of ways. In addition to tracking equipment such as hundreds of IV pumps throughout the facility, the solution is proving to be particularly valuable for the Perioperative Department. University Hospital has two surgery areas--12 operating rooms on the fifth floor for adults, and four operating rooms on the third floor for children. The two areas share equipment, and some items must also be stored in other parts of the facility or off site when not in use. This equipment includes specialized operating tables used for different types of surgeries, bladder scanners, and diagnostic equipment. Prior to installing the AeroScout solution, Perioperative and Central Equipment Services staff would manually search for the necessary equipment--if items weren't easily found, delays could occur. Since the implementation, the staff is able to locate the required equipment using MobileView's graphical user interface, and quickly retrieve it for use.

"Our O.R. equipment is constantly being moved, and we need to be able to find and deliver items quickly, especially in emergencies," said Roxanne Taylor, deputy director of Perioperative Services. "We can now instantly locate the items we need, such as a specific type of table we need for a surgery. It saves us a tremendous amount of time, letting us focus on the patient and the situation at hand. This is particularly important for our trauma cases where every second counts."

In addition, to comply with The Joint Commission requirements for monitoring the temperature of refrigerators used to store items such as pharmaceuticals, vaccines and bone and tissue samples, the hospital has also placed AeroScout Temperature Monitoring Tags in refrigerators in the pharmacy and on nursing units. Previously, the nursing and pharmacy staff had to manually track and record the temperature of the refrigerators multiple times a day--an inefficient and potentially error-prone process. By using the Temperature Monitoring solution, University Hospital automatically tracks and records temperatures, and the appropriate personnel are alerted if readings deviate from the acceptable range. This has relieved the nursing staff from having to perform these duties manually.

"Our team is dedicated to finding ways to use technology to improve operations and, most importantly, to improve patient care," said Wagner. "Using WiFi RFID has helped our organization increase staff productivity and equipment utilization, as well as enhance patient care by reducing the time it takes to find urgently needed medical equipment. This also increases patient satisfaction because it decreases the frequency of delays and allows more time for clinicians to spend with patients."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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