Originally, I had intended for the subject of this post to be centered around Patient Safety Awareness Week (March 8-14, 2020). With the rapid exposure of global populations to the COVID-19 virus, and the difficulty identifying who may be carrying the pathogen, I am shifting the topic of this article slightly.
Recently, some of our customers have expressed an interest in learning how their Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) may be used to support their needs as they seek to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and offer care to infected patients. We at STANLEY Healthcare want to express our appreciation to the global caregiver community, and thought it might be worthwhile to share a few best practices on effective asset management, patient and caregiver visibility, environmental monitoring, and hand-hygiene compliance using RTLS. While these recommendations shouldn’t be taken as a guarantee for eliminating the virus, they may be used to support the fight against its spread.
We recommend that equipment and devices used in isolation rooms be tagged to identify where they were used and that they were sent for cleaning before being released for use by another patient.
RTLS systems provide historical information to hospital administrators and health and safety professionals to ensure patients, caregivers and staff are not exposed to improperly sanitized equipment or devices. Providing enterprise-wide visibility is particularly important for hospitals that share equipment and devices between buildings and sites. Real-time alerts can be used if assets are moved directly from one patient room to another rather than passing through a soiled room or a central cleaning area first.
Caregiver and Patient Visibility
When large-scale pathogen exposures occur, organizations need to identify where and when caregivers interact with potentially infected patients. In these situations, there is an urgent need to understand who was caring for patients as well as which medical devices were used. Capturing and sharing information about when and where these interactions occur is critical for helping to prevent the spread of a pathogen or minimize further exposure.
RTLS provides visibility on the movements of both caregivers and equipment in and out of patient rooms (and other areas in the hospital) and information about these interactions is captured and stored in real-time. Room incident reports also easily help identify which staff and caregivers were present in a room or area within a certain timeframe and remain available for documentation and future analysis.
When it is necessary to isolate patients with airborne infections, it is essential to monitor the pressure in patient rooms. Ensuring patient rooms are maintained at negative pressure helps limit the spread of contagions. RTLS-based environmental monitoring solutions can help manage room pressure by sending data to centralized platforms that alert caregivers when excursions occur outside pressure settings and record data for later analysis and regulatory compliance.
Under ordinary circumstances, caregivers and staff are expected to sanitize or wash their hands numerous times throughout the day – particularly before and after patient interactions – to reduce hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).
With the advanced exposure of COVID-19, it is essential for caregivers and staff in healthcare facilities to be diligent about hand-hygiene practices. RTLS solutions can help identify where and when handwashing occurs to help reinforce hand-hygiene compliance and identify gaps or areas for improvement based on historical information.
STANLEY Healthcare recognizes the difficulty healthcare organizations face when providing patient care during a large population exposure. We are committed to helping customers manage this situation and will continue to provide insights and guidance that we believe are helpful.