The Importance of Proper Naming Conventions in an RTLS System

Assets Naming Conventions

By Scott Hondros, Senior Director of Professional Services | Infinite Leap

As I work with different healthcare organizations implementing Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) for asset tracking and asset optimization purposes, one thing remains constant – the importance of establishing a consistent and understandable naming convention within the RTLS system. In fact, while it may seem like a relatively minor system, we are amazed at how many organizations struggle and get minimal use out of their RTLS investment, just because they didn’t take the time to do this right up front.

To avoid limiting the usefulness and ultimately the value of your RTLS solution, we strongly recommend defining terminology and having a common and agreed to understanding of what it is you are trying to accomplish. For example:  

What is an Equipment Classification?
In the world of RTLS, from a 30,000 foot level, equipment is defined by what is called the Equipment Class i.e Pumps or Transport Equipment are examples of Equipment Classes. These are then broken down further into Equipment Types I.e. Infusion Pump, Syringe Pump, Feeding Pump would fall under the Pump Class. Transport Equipment Class would consist of wheelchairs of various types, stretchers, beds, etc. By setting these “Classes” of equipment we have a high level way to see all similar types of equipment in a single, easy to remember search.

What is a Naming Convention?
Items within any RTLS solution  need to be configured so they can be sorted, reported on, and located with ease. When working with our clients during the initial implementation of the RTLS system, we establish a standard format to be  used for any equipment that is “tagged” or placed into the solution.  The standard may differ from client to client, but it must remain 100% consistent within each independent client, otherwise it will be too difficult to pull the value out of it.

For example, the first part of the Asset Name is the “Equipment Type” referenced above then there is a “space” and a “-“, another “space” then the Clinical Engineering unique identifier. A practical example might be that  an Alaris pump would be entered as: Syringe Pump – 4120000964.

What this means is that the same basic structure can be used for Bili Lights,Workstations on Wheels, or any other type of equipment.

While we’ve certainly seen standards that seem to work better than others, there is no particular magic pill that must be used by every hospital. It is however, that it is consistent and adhered to across an entire organization.  

The secondary consideration is to create a structure that is visibly appealing and delivers the relevant information in a easy to understand manner. By doing this, you allow for efficient searches and easy locating by staff.  

Finally, a standard and well thought out structure allows for an easy way to add new classes and types as the system goes…without the need to go back and redo previous naming conventions.

The result of not taking the time upfront to consider the importance of this task will come back to bite you in ways that you might never have considered. At the best it can be time consuming to fix, and at worst you can erode the trust of the staff and impede the usefulness of the system to the point of reducing its use and value.

If you are one of the organizations who didn’t take the time to work through this step during your installation, you already understand the pain that it can cause. If you are just getting started, please don’t disregard this step. The efforts will pay dividends.

If you aren’t certain how to get started in resolving this, or want to make sure you don’t make a costly mistake – drop me a note or give us a call.

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