How RTLS Helps Contact Tracing in Hospitals
By The Altus Team
Published Mar 29, 2022
| Updated Mar 02, 2023
| 5 min read
RTLS allows hospitals to carry out contact tracing efforts quickly, reducing the risk of cross-contamination and improving public health. With cloud-based asset tracking from Altus, hospital teams can accomplish contact tracing tasks more efficiently, effectively, and safely.
How RTLS contact tracing works
Contact tracing is a cornerstone of public health. The term became a household name thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic when governments around the world began tracking the spread of the disease.
Contact tracing is crucial for disease control and prevention. Real-time location services help hospitals improve their response to the spread of COVID-19, but the applications also go beyond pandemic response. RTLS hospital location tracking technologies allow hospital administrators to track assets, patient movement, and the potential spread of disease and infection not associated with COVID-19.
RTLS, as the name suggests, uses real-time location tracking to provide data on a person or asset. If an item –– like a visitor’s badge, patient identification bracelet, provider ID tag, medical device, or equipment –– can be tagged, it can be tracked. Sensors send electronic signals to a secure online program that allows administrators to see, in real-time, the location and status of the tagged person or item.
This data provides essential information for hospital teams, allowing them to track individuals, monitor rooms, determine the location of hospital equipment or assets, and carry out contact tracing. RTLS data updates in real-time and provides location accuracy down to the room, allowing hospitals to locate and isolate infected individuals or contaminated equipment immediately.
Benefits of RTLS in contact tracing
RTLS gives hospital administrations a bird’s eye view of their facilities. RTLS sensors in badges and hospital assets ping electronic signals to a secure online dashboard that provides location data to the user. This allows staff to take immediate action, whether that’s quarantining individuals, disinfecting equipment, or taking other measures to keep the facility safe.
In addition to staff being able to take immediate action, RTLS asset tracking offers other benefits that allow them to provide the best care for their patients. Below we explore the benefits of RTLS and how this innovative technology aids in contact tracing and beyond for hospitals.
1. Access to contact information
RTLS can be embedded in patient bracelets, visitor’s badges, and staff identification badges. Should an individual enter a hospital while infected, RTLS tech allows crisis teams to immediately determine the names and locations of individuals near the infected person.
RTLS data can even include contact information for those potentially exposed. This information can be presented in an organized way, making it easier for hospital staff to reach these individuals.
2. Improve Patient Visibility
RTLS allows hospital admins to keep patient visibility at 100%. As patients move across hospital campuses or even to different facilities, hospitals can keep records of their locations in real-time. Tracking patient movements allows healthcare systems to know the precise location of infected, or potentially infected, individuals. Admins can then isolate individuals and more efficiently halt the spread of disease.
Hospital asset tracking also allows for hospitals to be better prepared in the case of an emergency. If the hospital needs to go into lockdown for a non-infectious emergency, they’re able to quickly track the locations of both patients and staff. It eases some of the stress and helps a hospital’s crisis response time.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Shutdowns
Hospital systems prioritize safety for patients, staff, and visitors alike. Any time there is a potential disease outbreak, hospital staff must do whatever it takes to stop the spread, especially due to the fragile health of many of their patients. Unfortunately, this can mean widespread shutdowns, unnecessary patient quarantining, and even pausing or halting patient intake.
These measures often result in significant resource waste and preventable frustrations for both patients and staff. When a hospital facility must slow or pause its operations, there’s a risk of potentially millions of dollars of loss. Additionally, mass quarantine of patients produces stress and anxiety for those individuals as well as for the doctors and staff providing care.
But with RTLS from Altus, hospitals can avoid unnecessary shutdowns. RTLS allows hospital staff to quickly and accurately track the location of infected individuals as well as the routes they traveled within the building. Access to this data empowers administration to pinpoint areas of potential infection. Instead of shutting down entire floors, staff can make informed decisions that keep the hospital safe while maximizing the volume of care they’re able to provide and reducing resource loss.
4. Reduce Exposure Risk
RTLS from Altus empowers healthcare professionals to reduce the risk of disease or infection faster than traditional methods of contact tracing. The American Journal of Infection Control published a study examining RTLS technology and its effect on contact tracing within hospitals. The findings determined that RTLS doubled the effectiveness of manual contact tracing, improving disease control and preventing further infection.
If a patient or visitor enters a healthcare facility and is later diagnosed with an illness, RTLS technology provides specific data, mapping the parts of the facility that were exposed.
Because RTLS data is both accurate and immediate, hospitals can quickly reduce exposure risk, even if the infected person is no longer in the building.
5. Communicate Room Status
Contact tracing can be utilized for more than tracking individuals and pockets of infection. RTLS technology can communicate the status of a room or bed availability. As patients are moved or discharged and their rooms are disinfected, team members can utilize contact tracing software to update the appropriate parties.
By utilizing RTLS to communicate room status, hospitals can know precisely when a bed is ready for a new patient. This not only significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination, but it improves the patient experience, reduces time spent in the waiting room, and streamlines patient intake.
Unlike other methods of record-keeping or data analysis, Altus’s RTLS solution offers instant data dissemination to system users. This real-time tracking technology can help hospitals improve their processes across the board: streamlining workflows, improving patient treatment and discharge speed, and reducing asset loss and misplacement.
Contact tracing is essential for disease control and patient and provider well-being. With RTLS from Altus, hospitals have access to efficient, accurate, proven tracking systems that improve facility function –– from patient intake to discharge and beyond. Contact us to learn how RTLS can help in your hospital.