7 Tips For Selecting Patient Electronic Tagging Technology

Audit trails, reliability and integration with other security systems are just some of the features that should be considered when a hospital is shopping for a new infant and patient security system.

Patient security continues to be an area of focus for hospitals and medical facilities. Even with infant protection, where electronic tagging systems have been around for over a decade, there continues to be a lot of activity as hospitals replace older technology and look for improved functionality. As you make plans for adding electronic patient security provisions at your facility, the following are seven guidelines to consider:

Related Article: Get familiar with infant security basics.

1. Reliability is key: Make sure you are receiving accurate, reliable information about the functionality of the system you are considering – beginning with false alarms. There is nothing more likely to undermine the effectiveness and reliability of an infant or patient security system than frequent false alarms. Staff will become frustrated and desensitized, and, instead of being an aid to security, the system will actually reduce security.

Reliability is also not the same as simplicity. A system with fewer features will quite naturally have fewer items that can go wrong, but it may also offer less security. Strive for a system that has layers of security: protection of exits, detection of tag removal and continual supervision of each infant are the minimum standards.

How do you know if a system is really reliable? Ask your peers. Require several references from the vendor to substantiate their claims.

2. Consider mother/infant matching: Mother/baby mix-ups are much more common than abduction attempts. While broadly effective, the traditional system of matching ID bands is entirely manual and prone to failure.

Electronic mother/infant matching as a component of an infant protection system is a very effective and economical way to support the matching band system. Being automatic, it does not add to the nurse’s burden while helping him or her to do their job.

3. Plan for all your patient security needs: Focus on more than the infant abduction threat. There are other risks that must be mitigated against, including abduction and patient flight in the pediatric department, and wandering or self-discharge of adult patients in the emergency department or rehabilitation.

Choose a technology platform that can cover all your at-risk patients in all parts of your facility. Even if a phased approach is necessary, you should at least know that you have the ability to expand coverage.

Keep in mind that auditors may ask you to justify varying levels of care among departments. For example, if you band infants in the mother/child unit, but not in pediatrics, you may have to explain why.

4. Consider the impact on nursing staff: This factor is often forgotten. Nurses use the technology on a daily basis – applying patient tags, transporting patients – and will be the first to respond to alarms. Make sure the technology provides a high level of automation and flexibility to minimize additional work burden. Low battery alerts, enrolling patients in the system and other daily tasks should be automatic.

Plan to involve clinical staff in planning for the system at an early stage, so they can provide input on how it can be meshed with workflow.

5. Make sure there is an audit trail: The ability to capture a wide range of system data and generate reports is a critical feature for any patient security system. This information serves multiple purposes, from diagnostics and benchmarking to documenting due diligence. Make sure any system you are considering captures every event that occurs. In the case of user actions, it should tie it to the individual user account. Without this kind of information, it is impossible to truly know if your patients are being effectively protected.

6. Check integration options: In all likelihood, you will want to integrate the patient security system into your existing security systems. Plan in advance for what kind of integration you desire. For example, you may want to be able to use your current access control system to bypass exits or login to the system software, while still capturing the identity of the staff member. You may also wish to leverage your CCTV system by integrating images from cameras linked to exits within the interface of the patient security system.

7. Ask about implementation support:
Choose a vendor with a full range of implementation supports. This includes planning guides, clinical education services, sample policies, patient education materials and more. Patient security is truly a team effort, requiring an ongoing commitment from all involved. You need to know that the vendor will be able to support you now and for years to come with product support, new features and clinical services.

Steve Elder is communications manager for Stanley Healthcare Solutions.

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