Improving safety in the acute care setting

May 25, 2017
By Adebayo Onigbanjo,
Director of Product Marketing, Zebra Technologies

Patient identification technologies like barcoded wristbands and labels that accurately identify patients have become mainstream across innovative healthcare centers and acute care facilities. This is a crucial first step to enabling a variety of use cases that link specimen and medication identification to patient identification for improving patient safety and reducing negative outcomes. Most barcoded wristbands can indicate who the patient is but the questions of where they are and how long they have been there remain a challenge for most healthcare facilities.

According to a 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) article,1 “the combination of acutely and critically ill patients and high patient volumes creates a need for systems to support physicians in making accurate and timely diagnoses. Electronic patient tracking systems can potentially improve pediatric emergency department (PED) safety by reducing overcrowding and enhancing security.”

Understanding a patient’s location and duration of treatment time in critical care settings is a daunting task when the primary goal is to maximize positive outcomes. Today, the patient journey is tracked using handwritten notes by care givers in contact with the patient. This manual process faces a number of challenges such as missing and inaccurate data, time-consuming collation, and analysis of collected data. Most importantly, this process lacks real-time information for the medical staff responsible for the patient’s care.

Patient Flow Analysis – ER Dashboard
Courtesy of Zebra Technologies

Efficiency needed

The need for a more efficient, accurate process to identify patients has given way for innovative solutions and services that target this problem. For instance, Zebra Technologies provides Patient Flow Analytics to enable hospitals to act quickly based on real-time data on urgent, time-sensitive cases.This solution, which takes advantage of Internet of Things, is comprised of smart wristbands, cloud-based analytics, real-time locationing, and mobile tablets. The smart wristbands are configured to provide a “digital voice” for the patients. They capture information like their medication status, specimen data, location, and duration of their stay in specific areas. This information is then processed and analyzed by the Patient Flow System, and intelligent data is then offered to the caregivers via a handheld or digital display. The solution also provides information such as real-time feedback of treatment time, notification of event, instruction alert, and a patient overview dashboard.

Capture data in the ER

To begin capturing data, the smart wristband is fitted to a patient in the ambulance or on arrival at the Emergency Department (ED). A beacon inside triggers the wristband to send out signals to the devices connected via Patient Flow Analytics, indicating the patient’s identity and journey within that hospital. For example, Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands is using Patient Flow Analytics to track and evaluate door-to-balloon time in myocardial infarction patients. The system provides reliable, real-time feedback of treatment time and has helped LUMC optimize the patient journey in acute myocardial infarction care, shaving several minutes off its door-to-balloon time. The staff now has better insight into potential delays and an accurate system for measuring door-to-balloon treatment time.


  1. National Institutes of Health, “A Systematic Review of Patient Tracking Systems for Use in the Pediatric Emergency Department,” January 2013.

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