The initial goal for the transmitters was to improve the patient experience by providing measurable care metrics.
“Patients really feared that they are not being communicated with enough,” said Ashley Simmons, director of performance improvement at Florida Hospital Celebration. Simmons and Patty Jo Toor, the hospital's chief nursing officer, spoke about the program Monday at the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society convention in Orlando.
When a nurse or housekeeper enters a patient's room, the device alerts a receiver that displays the wearer's photo, name and job title in a corner of the room's flat-screen TV. With the RFID chips, “We can communicate back to the patient how long a nurse has been in the rooms,” Simmons said.
Additionally, data generated from a staffer's travels are stored and converted into diagrams and charts that can be analyzed to improve staff performance.
“We were able to use the tracking data and show [staff] what their pattern was,” Simmons said. A new nurse, for example, was moving inefficiently through her floor duties. With her tracking graphs in hand, nursing leadership was able to review them with her and suggest more efficient movement patterns. The lightweight AeroScout transmitters, about 1-1/2 inches square, are made by Stanley Healthcare.
Before introducing the trackers, Simmons and other managers assured employees that data from the devices would only be used to improve quality and performance. “I guaranteed them that there would never be any punitive actions attached to them and we needed their help to get it right,” she said. “We never forced anyone. You don't have to use it, and after a while people began to see, we were not going to use it for punitive action. Now, they totally embrace it. They ask for their data. If they've had a busy day, they want to know [what they did] to help track their movement.”
Data from the RFID devices was also used to better plan nurse-station locations on two floors under construction.
“When we built the unit, we asked the staff for input on how [it] should be designed,” Toor said. Planners were told the nurses wanted stations at both ends of the nearly 90-yard-long ward. But RFID motion tracking indicated that modifications were needed. “The nurses said they wanted stations at both ends, but they still spent most of their time at the front,” Toor said. “People are social. So we are building a second unit, with the front unit larger and the back unit smaller,” she said,
The use of tracking devices for healthcare process improvement is still in its infancy, according to Simmons. One proposed project may aim to correlate the time nurses spend in patients' rooms with data in a patient's clinical record to determine “how much time do we really need to spend with a patient,” she said.
“Right now, the industry standard is that you staff your unit based on what your census is at midnight,” Simmons said. “It's not truly an effective way to do labor standards. That could be drastically different during the day. You're caring for a person based on more than a diagnosis. [We would like to] see trending on that based on a patient's age and culture, not just a midnight census and a diagnosis.”
Follow Joseph Conn on Twitter: @MHJConn