RTLS End-User Software: Understanding What It Can Do for You

February 1, 2011 | Evaluations & Guidance


 If you’re investing in a real-time locating system (RTLS), you’re not just buying tags and readers. You’re acquiring a comprehensive information system that depends critically on end-user software—the portion of the solution that turns real-time location and status data into meaningful information for the user.

The vendors of end-user software typically offer multiple applications that can be purchased as needed. These can include asset tracking/management, temperature monitoring, emergency department workflow, perioperative workflow, outpatient clinic workflow, and enterprise bed management. Such applications can typically provide status information (about equipment, patients, staff, and treatment rooms), alerts, reports, and, as appropriate, other capabilities such as search functions. This information helps generate quantifiable metrics to allow a better understanding of operations, improve efficiencies, and streamline processes.

In many respects, though, the use of today’s RTLS end-user software is still rudimentary. This is partly because RTLS technology is still relatively new to healthcare and partly because hospitals are just starting to exploit its more sophisticated capabilities. However, we expect this to change. Software is easily adaptable, and the market is seeking to understand and meet current and upcoming healthcare needs. As advances are made with software rules, reporting, and interoperability, real-time locating will anchor its presence in healthcare.

So it’s important to understand the end-user software landscape, including how to choose a vendor, what applications are available, and which features and capabilities will—and won’t—be valuable to you.

As RTLS technology gradually gains acceptance by healthcare facilities and the market grows, different applications are advancing at different rates. For example, workflow-based software (e.g., software that provides information about perioperative workflow) is not as mature as asset tracking software and has not yet propagated as widely. As a result, not all end-user software vendors will have a full complement of RTLS-related applications. It is possible that some hospitals will need to engage in multivendor contracts to achieve all the functionality they desire.

Generally speaking, there are two approaches to vendor selection when acquiring an RTLS: choosing the tag/platform vendor first or choosing the end-user software vendor first.

If you’re choosing a tag/platform vendor first, you’ll need to consider whether it also offers accompanying end-user software. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to find a separate vendor that does. On the other hand, most tag/platform vendors that do offer this software will offer only asset tracking and possibly temperature monitoring software; currently, these vendors don’t usually offer workflow-related software. That means if you want to incorporate RTLS information into a workflow...

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