Improving patient experience with real-time locating system

May 25, 2017
By Lee Kwiatkowski, Director of Ambulatory Transformation, Stanford Children’s Health

Since opening a year ago, the new Stanford Children’s Health Specialty Services Sunnyvale location has been very popular with patients, providers, and staff, serving between 100 and 200 patients daily. Housing more than 20 clinical sub-specialties, it is the largest of 13 Stanford Children’s Health Bay Area specialty service centers. Some of its success is attributed to the facility’s family-friendly design and state-of-the-art medical and therapeutic services. Part of the latest technology includes a real-time locating system (RTLS). Stanford Children’s Health pursued this technology to try to increase visibility, automate workflows, and accelerate data collection.

Patients and families receive a battery-powered “badge” at check-in that they wear throughout their visit. Providers and staff also wear badges, which communicate to a wired network of approximately 500 RFID and infrared sensors located throughout the facility. The patient, provider and staff data is sent to 55” monitors located in provider and staff workrooms throughout the building that display real-time room status and visit data on maps of the facility.

Two-way visibility

The RTLS system by Versus Technology addresses common patient experience concerns from the start of a visit, beginning in the patient waiting areas.  At Sunnyvale, there are multiple waiting rooms in each area of the facility—some with televisions, some without, and others with activities designed to keep young patients occupied. These waiting rooms are divided into zones, based on the locations of receivers throughout each room. From their workstation, medical assistants can preview which zone the patient is sitting so they can approach the patient with a warm greeting, rather than calling out a name and searching the waiting room, which gives families the freedom to sit in any area they prefer prior to their appointments. Once the patient is roomed, medical assistants press a button on the badge triggering a visual signal to the provider that the patient is ready to be seen.

Clinicians see communciation benefits

In Stanford Children’s Health’s sub-specialized academic environment, there are often multiple providers and staff involved in the care of a patient. William Kennedy, M.D., chief of pediatric urology at Stanford Children’s Health, moved his practice from the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford campus to the new Sunnyvale facility and sees the direct benefits of the RTLS technology. “When I have several trainees in the clinic on the same day I know exactly what room they are in and with which patient they are interacting. I even know the amount of time that they have spent with each patient,” Kennedy explains. “It enables me to efficiently manage my time by signaling when it is time for me to enter their room.”

Additionally, a common challenge for clinic managers can be identifying when and where wait times are occurring within a clinic. At Stanford Children’s Health Sunnyvale, wait times are made visible in the workrooms’ data displays, and managers receive automated emails and text messages anytime a patient has been in the waiting room or alone in an exam room for longer than a designated period of time.

Patient data tracked

Understanding duration of all components of a patient visit is key to understanding how to continuously improve flow, utilization of space and patient experience. Previously, when pursuing improvement opportunities, Stanford Children’s Health would tap valuable resources to collect data manually. However, the RTLS system now installed in Sunnyvale automatically captures data for every moment of every visit and every patient interaction, providing analytics to help teams more quickly and effectively identify gaps in efficiencies and determine ways these can be improved.

Stanford Children’s Health made the commitment to implement RTLS with a set of valuable use cases in mind, and as the design team began to appreciate the data the system captures, even more use cases have come to light. The success experienced with the system has warranted a commitment to install RTLS systems throughout the new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford opening in late 2017.

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