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Nurse Tracking System Improves Hospital Workflow

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 03 Jan 2018
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Image: An NFER system allows researchers to track nurses\' movements in real time (Photo courtesy of Jung Hyup Kim/ MU).
Image: An NFER system allows researchers to track nurses\' movements in real time (Photo courtesy of Jung Hyup Kim/ MU).
An innovative system uses a combination of manual observation and non-intrusive tracking sensors to track intensive care unit (ICU) nurses in real time.

Developed at the University of Missouri (MU; Columbia, USA), the new near field electromagnetic ranging (NFER) system uses a tracking device pinned to ICU nurses to provide a more accurate measure of how much time they spend on various duties throughout their day. With the aid of 16 routers set up throughout the ICU to track the devices, researchers viewed each individual nurses' movements in real time on system monitors. The health care workers are represented as dots overlaid on a floor plan that represent their movement as they perform their duties.

The NFER system also allows researchers to observe if nurses provide patient care or are inputting data during their time spent in each room; they can pinpoint if nurses were at a room's computer terminal or at bedside, and measure the time spent doing each accordingly. By using these measurements and flow patterns, managers and supervisors can help plan nurses' shifts more efficiently, and designers and architects can use the information to design more efficient hospital units, according to the researchers. The study was presented at the annual Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers (IISE) conference, held during May 2017 in Pittsburg (PA, USA).

“The nurses in an ICU confront heavy daily workloads and face difficulties in managing multiple stressors from their routine work. They're multitaskers, doing many things simultaneously,” said lead author Jung Hyup Kim, PhD, of the Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering Department. “For example, while talking with the patient and getting vital signs, they also are charting in the electronic medical record system. We wanted to find ways to streamline their jobs, making them more efficient.”

NFER employs the near-field properties of radio waves as a real time location system (RTLS), which employs transmitter tags and one or more receiving units. Operating within a half-wavelength of a receiver, the transmitter tags use relatively low frequencies to achieve significant ranging. The low-frequency, multipath-resistant characteristics of NFER make it well suited for tracking in dense metallic locations, such as typical office and industrial environments. Depending on the choice of frequency, NFER has a range resolution of 30 cm and ranges up to 300 meters.

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