Infinite Leap: Joshua, can you share with us your journey with Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)?
Joshua Virnoche: Our organization started using an RTLS system for asset tracking back in 2015. I joined JPS Health Network in 2014 as a Clinical Engineering Manager, and I am now the Director of Clinical Engineering, so I had the opportunity to oversee the RTLS program since its very beginning.
Infinite Leap: Can you explain where your organization started with the use of RTLS?
Joshua Virnoche: The major drive for us was, like in most hospitals, to better track our mobile medical equipment—specifically IV pumps. Our organization was also planning to use the real-time locating system to further improve patient and staff safety.
Infinite Leap: How many and what types of devices do you track with RTLS?
Joshua Virnoche: We currently have 5,000 assets tracked using RTLS tags. 3,000 of these assets are IV pumps.
Infinite Leap: Do you use an RTLS system to track your entire fleet of mobile medical equipment?
Joshua Virnoche: As there are costs associated with managing an RTLS system which go beyond the initial purchase—such as replacing batteries—we made a strategic decision not to track everything that moves. We tag equipment that circulates a lot around our facility, like stretchers and wheelchairs. We also tag assets that require a very stringent preventive maintenance (PM) schedule, such as hypo/hyperthermia units, which need a quarterly PM.
Infinite Leap: Have you seen any process improvements since implementing the RTLS system?
Joshua Virnoche: Yes, the RTLS system made a huge difference in our staff efficiency. We are saving a ton of valuable time by being able to quickly locate mobile equipment due for PM. When the system was installed, we were able to find around 85% of the equipment scheduled for PM. Now we can find 99% of the equipment. Because of this positive change, we can better balance our workload, as we don’t need to add a few extra months to the PM date to ensure we can find the required equipment on time.
Infinite Leap: And what is your advice for hospitals just starting with RTLS?
Joshua Virnoche: My advice is not to underestimate the scope of the project. We thought we had a good idea of what it takes to install the system, but we learned quickly there needs to be a lot of work done upfront in terms of system management and processes related to it. For example, you need to determine clear roles and responsibilities for adding a new piece of equipment to the system, replacing batteries in RTLS tags, or just deciding who needs to have access to the RTLS system.
Infinite Leap: Can you share with us some of these best practices?
Joshua Virnoche: Certainly. For example, our Clinical Engineering team is responsible for tagging new equipment when it arrives at our facility, and it is done during the initial equipment inspection. However, if the asset type does not exist yet in the RTLS system, we work with our IT department, which serves as our system administrator, to add a new asset type to the system. We replace tag batteries proactively during preventive maintenance of the equipment. In addition, we regularly review the low battery report to see if any tag needs to be replaced between PM cycles, since batteries sometimes drain much faster than what the manufacturer’s data sheets are saying.
Infinite Leap: Very good tips, Joshua. In closing, as we are building our Community, can you please share with us some of your personal interests?
Joshua Virnoche: I am a huge sports fan, especially football and baseball. I cheer for the Green Bay Packers and the Texas Rangers. I also enjoy traveling and checking out new video games. I am a big advocate for our profession, and I’m an active member of the North Texas Biomedical Association and the Biomedical Equipment Society of Texas.
If you would like to share your thoughts and best practices on RTLS, drop me a note – I’d love to chat with you to capture your experiences: www.linkedin.com/in/joannawyganowska