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Colchester Hospital tracks equipment with Wi-Fi

Jennifer Scott

Colchester General Hospital has implemented a new system for tracking the whereabouts of its medical equipment using Wi-Fi technology.

The organisation is using the real-time location tracking system (RTLS) from Ekahau to place tags on anything from wheelchairs to cardiac monitors. These tags communicate with controller and vision software provided by the firm, enabling accredited personal to search for items’ whereabouts from a laptop or PC.

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The system was put in place by consulting company Network First and uses a wireless network installed by Cisco to ensure connectivity throughout the hospital, whether the equipment is in wards or theatres, or has worked its way into a linen closet.

“In the past staff would spend up to 45 minutes trying to track down specific equipment,” said Danny Cummings, a critical outreach nurse working at the hospital.

“Using these tags has meant that the critical care nurses can start life-saving treatment quicker than previously possible which has had a very positive impact on the deteriorating patients we get called to.”

Although it was mostly equipment being misplaced than stolen causing delays, some of the kit is worth over £10,000. The system alerts staff if equipment is taken off-site and can track the last place it was, as well as give it a time stamp, giving an extra level of security along with the daily tracking activities.  

“It’s early days but the feedback so far from clinical colleagues has been extremely positive,” said Dave Gibson, infrastructure manager for the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

“They tell us the system is easy to use meaning they can locate equipment quickly which reduces delays for patients and shortens the time staff have to spend tracking critical equipment down.”

Although this is the first full implementation of wireless technology, the hospital is already planning and testing other ways to take advantage of the network.

The radiology department is testing its use to transfer x-rays straight from the machine onto a screen, negating the need to download and upload the pictures between different equipment and, in turn, cutting the time needed to be spent on getting each patient’s results.

Diagnostic ultrasound scans are also being made and stored over the network onto the picture archiving and communications system (PACS), enabling instant access for doctors or nurses who are dealing with the patient.

Finally, Colchester is also thinking of distributing tablet computers to doctors to allow them to order tests for their patients without having to manually fill out forms.


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