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How Real-time Location Can Help the US Health Service See Beyond the Pandemic

Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) is playing an increasingly important part in the healthcare ecosystem in the post-pandemic world.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has left a significant mark on health services workers: leaving them not only feeling physically burnt out because of the long shifts but also mentally exhausted as they face unprecedented challenges at work.

It’s unsurprising that many hospitals in the US overrun their capacity during the pandemic, which has killed over 1 million people and traumatized countless health-care workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that nearly half a million workers have left the health-care sector since February 2020.

The situation hasn’t been getting any better.

In fact, in September last year, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses launched the Hear Us Out campaign with the aim to show the reality of Covid19 from front-line workers. Its recent survey highlighted the scale of the impact on the health services workers:

  • 92% of nurses surveyed said they believe the pandemic has depleted nurses at their hospitals
  • 66% feel their experiences during the pandemic have caused them to consider leaving nursing

Before the pandemic the Bureau of Labor Statistics was estimating around 200,000 nurse vacancies a year between now and 2029. However, with more nurses now expected to leave the profession, this number can only go upwards. Something must be done to help ease the pressure on healthcare staff.

How to solve the issue of having right person, right time, right place with real-time location data

It is clear that the nursing shortage in the US is an issue that cannot be solved overnight: the American Nurses Association (ANA) has been urging the US Department of Health and Human Services to declare this a national crisis.

So, one needs to make do with what you have.

Focus should be on finding ways to “use” current staff more efficiently, making sure the right doctors, nurses and health carers are where they need to be at the right time.

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Learning from the last 24 months, many sectors have embraced technology – whether willingly or reluctantly – as a way to get businesses to be more agile and adapt more easily to unexpected circumstances.

Therefore, when it comes to health services, any technology that can enhance patient flow and hospital or clinic capacity to increase revenue is welcomed. Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) are one such technology that has been playing an increasingly important part in the healthcare ecosystem, particularly scalable easy-to-deploy solutions that are based on smartphones and require minimal or no infrastructure.

Real-time location systems or RTLS can help move people quickly and efficiently by improving patient flow – from discharging patients more quickly to getting beds changed, to finding assets, reducing patient waiting times, improving patient care, supporting clinical staff in a hospital environment and tracking assets globally.

Users in hospitals have reported an increase of 175 hrs/week in added time for clinicians to care for patients, 29% reduced wait times, 40% faster response time, leading to increased patient safety, and 20% increase in capacity.

By providing real time location information, healthcare workers in hospitals have been able to increase the number of tasks completed by 94% and reduced bed turnaround time by 35%.

RTLS is proving to be a critical tool in helping drive productivity, reducing wasted time in searching for resources, freeing up doctors from admin tasks and improving patient flows particularly in departments such as imaging and logistics, where locating issues are more experienced.

It’s a dynamic alternative to manual logging and much needed in an industry which is so focused on doing more and doing more with less. RTLS can enhance the patient experience and further improve hospital and healthcare worker resilience.

Discussing the current state of the US health service, Dr Victor Dazu, President of the National Academy Medicine, called for “health care leaders to focus on “the long game” in dealing with this crisis now and well after the pandemic is over”.

In response to this the Biden administration recently announced it would “develop a global health workforce plan, to accelerate our contributions to the Sustainable Development Agenda and investments in health and care workers”. Notably the plan also includes investments in technological advancements and innovation to help health workers have data and tools to make better and more informed decisions.

This is an important step forward as we see technology as a key enabler to help not only ease the pressure on health service workers, but also help them find the vocation and passion for their job again.



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