Containing the Coronavirus Outbreak – Real-Time Location Systems Can Help

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the COVID-19 virus is “rapidly evolving and spreading.” HIMSS just canceled their annual conference for the first time in 58 years, to protect the health and safety of the global HIMSS community, local residents, and the healthcare providers tasked with keeping our communities healthy.

These alert signals make me think about non-traditional ways we can contain the spread of contagious diseases such as coronavirus.

Contact Tracing
Hospitals often admit new patients without knowing if they are carrying a communicable disease. We only know if a patient is a carrier after a medical evaluation and test results. In this situation, we put at risk many of our patients and staff who were exposed to the carrier in the waiting room, exam room, or lab.

With the assistance of an automatically generated contact tracking report which leverages data collected by Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS), healthcare organizations can take the necessary steps to minimize the spread of the disease. These steps can include quarantining staff and patients, and sterilizing potentially contaminated equipment.

For example, our healthcare clients can leverage RTLS data to implement an effective communications strategy. Since their patients and staff all wear RTLS badges, the facility can run a contact tracking report and send out targeted messages to everyone who came into contact with an infected patient. I would expect the same protocols will be applied if they identify a patient carrying the COVID-19 virus.

Automated Air-Pressure Monitoring
Condition-sensing sensors can also provide needed assistance with the containment of infectious diseases. With pressure sensors, hospitals can monitor 24/7/365 air pressure conditions of rooms which require a constant positive or negative air pressure per ASHRAE regulations, such as positive air pressure in patient rooms and operating rooms, and negative air pressure in isolation rooms and soiled utility rooms. If the pressure levels go beyond an acceptable threshold, the proper staff is alerted, so that corrective actions can be taken immediately. 

This not only ensures environmental safety in case of “out-of-range” situations, but also allows clinical and engineering staff to eliminate time-consuming manual compliance logging, enabling them to focus on tasks that cannot be automated. 

Asset Locating
During an outbreak, hospitals inevitably experience a higher influx of patients, which creates an increased need for essential medical equipment like ventilators, powered air purifier respirators, and infusion pumps. With a Real-Time Locating System (RTLS), medical personnel can use a search function to immediately find needed equipment. In addition, the Environment Services staff can be notified automatically to retrieve soiled equipment, minimizing the risk of exposure and enabling equipment to be circulated back to the pool of clean inventory (after proper disinfection procedures).

Hand-Washing Monitoring
The importance of thorough handwashing in a situation like the COVID-19 epidemic is unquestionable. By simply wearing a location-enabled badge, Real-Time Location Systems can remind staff to follow proper hand hygiene protocol at critical moments. This little reminder can be the difference between preventing a spread of coronavirus or causing it.

If your organization has already invested in RTLS for use cases such as asset management or nurse call integration, the infection prevention and containment use case should be the next logical step in your RTLS progression. Our team can assist with creating a fast-track plan to implement RTLS-enabled solutions that aid in preventing and containing outbreaks. And if you don’t have an RTLS system in place, this might be the tipping point to convince your hospital administration of the need to invest in RTLS.

Contact Infinite Leap