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RFID boosts staff safety at Beaumont Health System

RFID receives a lot of publicity for its ability to streamline hospital operations and increase patient care. Many hospitals are saving millions each year by deploying asset tracking solutions to track critical equipment like heart monitors, hospital beds and IV pumps.

Yet, not much is made of the technology’s ability to improve safety for hospital workers. Beaumont Health System in Royal Oak, Mich., has deployed an RFID solution to improve caregiver and staff safety in inpatient units and at its  Emergency Center. The hospital, which has 1,738 beds and 14,000 employees, has rolled out Ekahau’s RFID messaging solution to reduce response times to staff duress incidents involving  nurses, physicians, interns and techs.

RFID in healthcare

RFID-enabled badges reduce response time and prevent injuries by instantly alerting other staff in the vicinity of a potential incident.

“In Emergency Departments, it’s unfortunately commonplace for a caregiver to be kicked, punched, slapped, pushed or tackled,” says Terry Kowalenko, M.D., Chair of Emergency Medicine at Beaumont Health System. “While many hospitals tend to keep quiet about violence in the ED and other areas of the hospital, openly addressing this issue is critical to the safety of millions of health care workers.”

Beaumont Health System employees who feel threatened during an event simply pull down on their badge’s panic switch and their location appears on badges worn by other employees near the incident. Ekahau’s wearable RFID badges offer proximity-based messaging via text, and operate over the existing WLAN, eliminating the need for manual panic button presses, dialing and map look-ups.

Security teams can also view the real-time locations of all badge-holders on web-based hospital floor plans and they can view post-emergency play-backs of staff movements.

Last year Kowalenko and several other researchers conducted a ground-breaking survey of 213 emergency department workers which revealing that 827 employees had reported violent events and 226 had experienced assaults. Published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, the study also revealed that victims filed safety reports only 42 percent of the time and reported incidents to police 5 percent of the time.

“Our research showed that workplace violence can result in productivity losses and high job stress that impacts an individual’s ability to think on the job. However, employers have options. By implementing a variety of security measures, hospitals can keep caregivers safe,” says Dr. Kowalenko.

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