Healthcare Organizations Using RFID in the Emergency Department

Patient Arm With RFID BandMost busy emergency departments (EDs) share the same goals of improving patient flow, shortening the length of stay until the patient is admitted or discharged, and reducing the number of patients who leave the ED without being treated. Healthcare organizations, including Christiana Care Health System in Wilmington, Delaware, are tackling all these problems using data from radio frequency identification (RFID) enabled real-time locating systems or RTLS. When patients arrive at one of Christiana Care’s two EDs, they are pinned with an RFID badge that tracks their movement. With real-time tracking, interval data can be measured — such as the time between a patient’s arrival to the time the doctor orders an x-ray, or to the time that the results are available or when the patient is discharged. Each of these separate data elements is fed into a central database that is integrated with data from other systems in the hospital including the computerized physician order entry (CPOE), laboratory, and radiology systems. The tracking data is then used to redesign operational processes to eliminate bottlenecks and improve patient flow.

Another area of focus is the time it takes to treat and discharge low-acuity patients. The tracking data, combined with process redesign, enabled Christiana Care to reduce the average length of stay for fast-track patients from two-and-a-half hours to less than 60 minutes during the busiest time of the day. The solution involved cutting the number of fast-track treatment rooms from six to two primary rooms with an additional procedure room. As a result, they can now accommodate more volume in less space and with fewer patients leaving without treatment.

Source: “Riding the Wave”s by Gienna Shaw, Health Leaders, August 2011.