Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust is trialling a wireless technology that tracks medical devices with the aim of improving efficiency and patient safety.

The trust, which is currently updating its wireless infrastructure, is using a real-time location tracking system from Ekahau to tag 40 items, such as cardiac monitors, portable ventilators and specialist wheelchairs.

The system was implemented by Network First and uses a wireless network installed by Cisco.

Dave Gibson, infrastructure manager, told eHealth Insider that the system is already providing benefits.

The trust hopes to have a fully implemented version within six months, when the wireless upgrade has been completed.

“We didn’t want to go-live without proving that the system is cost effective and improves patient experience. So far it is proving successful, and it seems to be that staff are able to locate equipment around the hospital more quickly,” he said.

The tags communicate with a web-based system that can be accessed by clinical staff who can then trace the movement of devices around the hospital.

If an item is removed from the site, the system alerts staff members, who can identify the time it left and where it was last located.

Danny Cummings, a nurse with the critical care outreach team, said that in the past staff would spend up to 45 minutes trying to track down equipment.

“The proper name for the tracking system is RFID, which is an abbreviation for radio-frequency Identification but I think it should stand for rapidly find important devices,” he said.

“Using these tags has meant that the critical care outreach nurses can start life-saving treatment quicker than previously possible which has had a very positive impact on the deteriorating patients we get called to.”

The trust believes that the system will be one of the benefits delivered for patients and staff by its wireless infrastructure. Colchester is currently in the process of extracting more capability from the network.

Gibson told EHI that supplying tablet devices such as iPads to clinicians was one of the “many things” that the trust was currently considering. 

“We have a wireless infrastructure so there is an ability to offer this service. It’s one of the many things on the ‘future steps’ at the moment.”

Colchester is currently implementing Medway, a new patient administration system from System C, a process which, according to Gibson, is “going well.”

The trust is open to the possibility of making the system available to clinicians on iPads.

A separate wireless network connection in the radiology department is also enabling staff to trial digital radiology, which allows x-rays to appear instantly on a computer screen, rather than having to download them by putting a cassette into a different machine.

Diagnostic ultrasound scans are being made and stored via the wireless system on the trust’s picture archiving and communications system, again providing instant viewing access to clinicians.