Saint Michael’s Medical Center has been using IBM’s Real-Time Location Services (RTLS) and ultrasound RTLS infrastructure from Sonitor Technologies to automatically track equipment, alert staff when the required level of equipment is running low, and to ensure compliance with patient safety regulations.

The use of smart automatic tracking systems in hospitals helps to eliminate inefficiency, improve patient safety and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost and under-utilized equipment. It also prevents the need for caregivers to spend valuable patient care time looking for the equipment they need.

The new system will initially track more than 2,000 pieces of equipment such as heart monitors, infusion pumps and ventilators across Saint Michael’s using ultrasound receivers and tagging technology from Sonitor Technologies. Ultrasound tags can be attached to equipment to broadcast an identification signal to receivers without the risk of electromagnetic interference with other electronic patient care equipment.

The ultrasound identification data is used by IBM’s Real-Time Location Service software to not only track and visualize equipment with location accuracy to zone, room or sub-room levels, but to generate alerts and automate responses. For example, an alert can be generated when a heart monitor leaves an assigned area without authorization, or if a crash cart sits in the hallway too long.

Saint Michael’s is also using the system to improve patient safety. With the solution, IBM is leveraging its asset management expertise to ensure a constant supply of equipment without the need for staff intervention or the need for nurses to pick up the phone and place equipment orders manually.

The IBM solution provides Saint Michael’s the flexibility to expand the system over time to cover additional rooms or even track patients and staff in important areas such as the emergency department, catheterization department and surgical department.

Angelo Schittone, vice president and chief information officer at Saint Michael’s Medical Center, said: “Saint Michael’s is always under cost pressures, looking for ways to improve efficiency and focus more on the patient. We have highly skilled staff and caregivers. The new system allows our biomedical engineering team to better use their time managing and maintaining equipment and allows nurses to focus on patient care rather than looking for equipment.”

Rob Merkel, healthcare industry leader at IBM global business services, said: “The need to streamline complex systems, reduce costs and eliminate waste is at the foundation of smarter healthcare. Working with IBM, Saint Michael’s is creating a new system that will help improve their processes, enhance patient care and boost efficiency.”