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Patient tracking helps improve workflow, decrease wait times, optimize costs, and enhance medical treatment in the outpatient setting. In that regard, real-time patient tracking may serve as a potential way to perform efficient patient care. In recent years, the increasing popularity of wireless local area networks (WLANs) has led to a growing number of devices utilizing wireless fidelity (WiFi) networks. This application has been used in various industries to enhance management processes. In that regard, we believe that this technology may enhance patient tracking, as the existing WLAN architecture in many clinics may allow for real-time tracking of patients. However, current literature regarding the clinical applicability of these devices is sparse. The aim of this study is to analyze the developmental process and feasibility of our protytope model for real-time patient tracking, using WLAN in the outpatient setting of our Level I Trauma center. We performed the study in various stages. First, we analyzed our current patient workflow, and then devised a study protocol and prototype model that implemented both this workflow schematic and our current technology infrastructure. Second, we implemented our prototype model to determine the accuracy, feasibility, and safety of data transmission in our clinical setting. The factors examined during prototype implementation included the accuracy of patient localization and the time spent by each patient in the various areas of our clinic (as determined by patient tracking). In our outpatient clinic, our prototype was capable of localizing and automating patient data with excellent accuracy and security. WLAN-based real-time patient localization systems can help overcome a number of common challenges and inefficiencies seen in the outpatient clinics. Real-time localization systems using WLAN technology performed adequately and safely in this pilot study. We believe that this will eventually lead to lower costs overall due to the improvements in efficiency. While the initial investment costs may be high, implemeting this system in a pre-existing WLAN and WiFi infrastructure should help minimize the start-up costs.

Citation

Timo Stübig, Christian Zeckey, William Min, Musa Citak, Christian Krettek, Tobias Hüfner, Ralph Gaulke. Development of a WLAN-based real time localization system for patient tracking in a Level I Trauma center. Technology and health care : official journal of the European Society for Engineering and Medicine. 2012;20(4):317-27

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PMID: 23006912

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