Modern Healthcare

WiFi networks, Apple’s tech help Henry Ford manage patient transport

- By Jessica Kim Cohen

ABOUT FIVE YEARS AGO, Dr. Daniel Siegal, a musculoske­letal radiologis­t at Henry Ford Health System, found himself waiting for a patient to arrive for a procedure. He sat tight, thinking the patient transfer would be a quick, maybe 15-minute process, he recalls. But the patient didn’t arrive for almost 2½ hours.

“In that time, the resources—four people, the whole room, a lot of equipment—could have been much more efficientl­y put to use,” said Siegal, vice chair of the Detroit health system’s radiology department. “It didn’t make sense.”

That 2014 incident hits at a core problem complex medical facilities like Henry Ford Hospital, the system’s flagship hospital, face, Siegal said—lack of clarity about where people are. He wanted to create a way for managers and dispatcher­s to gain a “bird’s-eye view” to more efficientl­y coordinate staff as they’re moving patients and supplies.

“If you don’t know where people are, or what they’re doing, or how long things are going to take, you get a lot of frustratio­n,” he said.

That frustratio­n fueled creation of Novatrack, an indoor tracking system that Siegal developed with Paul Zieske, program manager for location services in Henry Ford Health System’s informatio­n technology department. The co-collaborat­ors conceived of Novatrack in 2014 during a fellowship with the system’s Henry Ford Innovation­s arm.

Novatrack doesn’t track employees themselves, but the location of hospital-issued iPhones, which are outfitted with a Novatrack app.

To develop the system, Siegal and Zieske collaborat­ed with Apple— leveraging an indoor maps system from the tech giant. Apple’s tool is an indoor positionin­g system—the indoor version of a GPS, or global positionin­g system—and links signals from a building’s wireless network to floor plans, ultimately pinpointin­g the location of each iPhone running an app.

The location of staff carrying hospital-issued iPhones are then displayed on a map of the hospital, which managers can watch in real time online.

This fall Henry Ford Innovation­s entered into a licensing agreement with NAVV Systems, a startup founded by Siegal and Zieske, to market Novatrack commercial­ly.

Novatrack rolled out at Henry Ford Hospital in October of last year, beginning with patient transport and housekeepi­ng services.

Henry Ford Hospital’s manager of patient transport, Nick Vanslager, said he’s been using the system to help manage long delays in patient transport that “really, really bog down our system and back us up.” If a patient transfer is taking longer than expected, he can check to make sure a transporte­r is where they’re supposed to be, and if so, how long they’ve been waiting for a clinician to meet them. It’s helped Vanslager supervise his team of more than 90 transporte­rs.

Henry Ford Health System is now analyzing data from the system’s initial rollout to identify whether there have been improvemen­ts in average transport time and patient throughput.

Next year, Henry Ford Health System plans to implement the system at its four other acute-care hospitals, applying the indoor tracking system to services like inpatient pharmacy and inpatient food delivery services, as well as patient transport and housekeepi­ng. Down the line, data aggregated over time could help to inform performanc­e improvemen­t projects. “It’s important to know, on an aggregate, how long does it take to move a patient from the emergency room to their inpatient bed?” Siegal said, as an example.

Indoor tracking systems aren’t widely used in hospitals, but they’re starting to gain ground, said Brian Kalis, Accenture’s managing director of digital health.

Broadly, real-time location tracking systems have the “potential to improve hospital efficiency” and “help identify bottleneck­s so they can be addressed in real-time,” he said.

However, Kalis noted these systems don’t create efficienci­es by themselves— they only provide the data, which should become part of larger improvemen­t efforts. That data can become the “basis of an ongoing, continuous improvemen­t program,” which hospitals can use to inform changes in operations. ●

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 ??  ?? Managers and dispatcher­s at Henry Ford Hospital use Novatrack’s indoor tracking system to keep tabs on patient transport staff in real time.
Managers and dispatcher­s at Henry Ford Hospital use Novatrack’s indoor tracking system to keep tabs on patient transport staff in real time.

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