How RTLS Technologies Boost Healthcare Safety, Operational Efficiency

Tips on features to look for in real-time location services (RTLS) technologies that improve patient and staff safety in healthcare settings.
Published: July 5, 2024

Healthcare professionals across the United States have continuously experienced a surge in workplace violence over the last few years. A survey recently published by National Nurses United (NNU) shines a light on the safety concerns healthcare workers continue to face in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Eighty-one percent of nurses participating in the survey shared that they had experienced some level of violence in 2023, while three in every 10 participants reported they’ve been physically harmed on the job.

The NNU data highlights the need for additional measures to protect nurses, healthcare staff, and patients.

Creating a safe environment for staff and patients is essential to prevent workplace violence and provide peace of mind. Staffing shortages are contributing to the rise in violence, as it limits efficiencies and increases the risk of physical and verbal assaults in the workplace due to the challenges presented. Significant wait times, perceived unmet patient needs, increased stress, and lowered morale for healthcare staff create an environment where anxieties run high and tempers can be lost.

In NNU’s surveys and focus groups, nurses frequently express concern over the role that short staffing and miscommunications play in workplace violence. With that in mind, only 29.5% of nurses in the report felt that their employer appropriately ensured staff was able to respond timely to workplace violence.

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Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) and emerging technologies have been proven to provide cost-effective solutions that increase communication and visibility, ease operational burdens, support efficiency and timely responses, and enhance safety for patients and staff.

The IoT technology and location sensors behind RTLS feature active-radio frequency identification (RFID) wearable badges and tags to provide customizable levels of visibility into the location of equipment, colleagues, patients, newborns, and more. These location technologies play a pivotal role in supporting staff and de-escalating ongoing challenges in healthcare, such as workplace violence.

It’s noteworthy that not all RTLS vendor products may encompass these benefits equally. Therefore, it’s imperative to partner with a provider that can deliver each of the key features delineated here, essential for crafting the most effective system possible.

Leverage RTLS Technologies to Provide Peace of Mind and Efficient Security

More than one million registered nurses are projected to leave the workforce by 2030. As hospitals and other healthcare facilities grapple with workplace violence along with an increased influx of patients and staffing challenges, the need for hospital security directors and leadership to create a safe workplace environment and retain existing talent has never been more important.

RTLS provide scalable mobile duress solutions that can prevent violent threats from escalating to dangerous events, all with the simple click of a button. The tech allows staff to discreetly summon security and nearby colleagues to the duress location using a purpose-built IoT-enabled staff badge. For the greatest peace of mind, healthcare decision-makers should consider duress badges that provide a dedicated emergency button with a recessed design to ensure easy identification and to avoid false alerts, as well as instant acknowledgment from the device once the alert is received by the security system for added assurance. Other factors such as badge durability, battery life, ease of maintenance, and available user notifications are also important factors to consider.

Then, using the real-time data, security personnel are able to promptly arrive at the right place, in a timely manner, ensuring healthcare professionals always have backup support, quick conflict resolution, and confidence in the safety of their work environment.

Even as hospital leadership turns to emerging technology, NNU’s 2023 survey and focus groups found that employers continue to fail to effectively implement measures to prevent workplace violence. When asked in the survey, only 62.8% of nurses noted that their employer provides training on workplace violence prevention and de-escalation. Training by itself is not all it takes, but it is a crucial piece. Healthcare leadership must prioritize educational training for duress technology along with staff buy-in and an easy-to-use platform to develop an effective workplace violence prevention plan.

Consider Staff Buy-in and Unified Platforms to Simplify Staff Use

Staff support and stakeholder buy-in are significant considerations when selecting and implementing new technology or equipment. The key components for a successful adoption process are staff education on the technology’s purpose and use, early transparency of goals, and proactive communications. Successfully launching and earning support for new solutions requires incorporating the proper expertise from key professionals across relevant departments within the facility, vendor partners, and other essential stakeholders.

By bringing together varied viewpoints and expertise, healthcare facilities can better develop the implementation roadmap, communication plans, and comprehensive educational programs. Providing transparency and education on the technology means healthcare professionals are more likely to adopt the technology and see its value. Achieving facility-wide adoption holds major significance, particularly concerning new safety equipment, as widespread usage is pivotal for optimizing effectiveness and realizing desired returns on investment.

While healthcare leadership considers the best fit for their team’s duress and safety needs, some of the top solution providers supply a secure, high-performance cloud environment for their software applications. Secure cloud-based software simplifies implementation and maintenance, reducing costs and easing the labor-intensive management typically associated with physical servers. It also provides automatic and proactive application updates throughout the entire lifecycle of the product.

With cloud-based systems, essential functions such as user management, staff assignments, facility maps, site structures, and device configurations are performed on a single platform. As decision-makers review SaaS options, choose one that provides unified access and Single Sign-On (SSO) capabilities for a comprehensive suite of RTLS solution applications (i.e., Duress, Asset Tracking, Clinical Workflow, Hand Hygiene, etc.) and system management tools.

Protect What Matters Most with Various Location Insight Options

Healthcare facilities are entrusted with the safety and well-being of both their staff and patients. It is imperative that leadership extends this commitment to safeguarding the community’s most vulnerable, particularly newborn infants. This protection includes educating parents, strict staff protocols, security checkpoints, and deploying high-tech security systems within the buildings themselves. With the advancement of technology, healthcare organizations can employ various strategies to ensure the safety of newborn children and their families.

An automated infant protection system is a scalable option for existing RTLS or as a new implementation using a network of sensors that work together to provide visibility into the location of each newborn. The infant wears a small, comfortable sensor band that monitors their real-time location throughout the hospital. If the sensor is tampered with, removed, or unresponsive, an immediate alert is sent to the nurses’ workstations and the event is recorded in the system database.

In addition, mothers also receive their own badge that matches the infant’s sensor and confirms that the parents’ identity is a match to the child. If a baby is brought into the wrong room, the staff receive an immediate notification alerting them to the error. The waterproof wearable devices for babies and their mothers are comfortable and unobtrusive. The selected wearable RTLS technology should provide both security and comfort, ensuring both baby and parent are happy.

The location system ensures further safety and efficiency by immediately alerting staff of any unauthorized infant movements, including deviations from the designated transfer or transport route, failure to return to their designated area after transport, or non-arrival at the receiving unit during a transfer. The data analytics created by an infant protection system allow administration to view trends and better prepare for the future. As healthcare decision-makers select the best fit to protect their youngest patients, they should be able to select from zonal or clinical-grade locating to find the option that matches their needs and pricing.

Purposeful Security Ensures Safety, Satisfaction, and Ongoing Efficiencies

While staff members may initially resist or dismiss RTLS technology, the system’s capabilities for creating a safe and efficient environment for staff are a game-changer. When seeking an RTLS partner, healthcare leadership must consider one with a comprehensive suite of solutions and ongoing consultation options to ensure full use of the selected technology, assist with staff education and system rollout, and gain the desired return on investment (ROI).

RTLS come in many forms with a wide range of potential applications. It’s best to strategically consider a multi-year roadmap of the upcoming needs and goals. Is your system scalable to support diverse needs, various priorities, and ongoing challenges inherent in healthcare? If not, adding multiple disparate technology systems, devices, and software platforms may cause unnecessary system complexity in installation, maintenance activities, and costs. By consolidating and standardizing applications onto a single, unified platform helps minimize IT burden, reduce costs, benefit security, and increase efficiencies in system usability, maintenance, and management.

An early investment in the right strategic partner with ongoing consultations allows leadership to further develop the existing infrastructure and visibility to provide greater peace of mind for everyone.

Keith Herron is the Global Product Manager, Clinical Applications, at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing, and security solutions for the healthcare industry. 

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series