This month the MGH launched Track It-MGH, a three-month pilot program to track to location of medical equipment in real-time throughout the main campus. A decade in the making, the pilot uses infrared technology blended with Wi-Fi scaled to track approximately 15,000 portable pieces of medical equipment across the campus – including six inpatient units that have been outfitted to track equipment to the meter level.

“There are more than 40,000 pieces of medical equipment within the MGH that need to be able to be tracked for a host of reasons – chief among them safety and efficiency needs, while also meeting regulatory requirements,” says Gregory Sullivan, senior project specialist for Biomedical Engineering. “A campus as open and expansive as MGH poses unique challenges when it comes to locating these assets to perform even the simplest of preventative maintenance measures.”

Recognizing MGH’s continued growth and increasingly portable medical assets, a decade ago a group comprising several departments – including Materials Management, Biomedical Engineering, Environmental Services and Police, Security and Outside Services – convened to outline challenges in managing portable medical equipment. The result netted a comprehensive checklist for any problems the MGH would need to seamlessly address.

“Ten years ago the technology we envisioned for the MGH was in its infancy, which means we had a fair amount of time to further amend and visualize what would eventually be needed,” says Sullivan. The first phase of Track It-MGH is currently funded, while phases two and three represent expansion opportunities in the future. Together, these phases include:

Phase I: Asset management –Infrared and Wi-Fi solutions provide high-resolution locations of tagged equipment within inpatient areas and low-resolution in outpatient areas in real time.

Phase II: Patient care –How each item tagged within the system is used – and how long it is used within each clinical interaction – will help inform the refinement of patient flow procedures, leading to better processes and improved patient satisfaction.

Phase III: Staff Automation –Automating certain processes can help improve patient interactions with their care team. For example, when a nurse enters the room of a patient who has called, the system will automatically turn the call signal off, eliminating the need for the nurse to manually do so.

Track It-MGH affects the institution’s reporting at the federal level, as well.

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission dictate 100 percent compliance for maintenance of all medical equipment within the MGH,” says Patricia Volpe, director, Biomedical Engineering. “For example, we must be able to locate all 2,700 small, portable IV infusion pumps – items frequently in high demand – should we need to address a recall situation or perform maintenance. Therefore, it becomes imperative we know the whereabouts of the equipment at all times to ensure clinicians have the most up-to-date, safe to use equipment they need, where and when they need it, and the right-sizing of the equipment inventory to maximize the use of the hospital’s resources.”

Thus far, Volpe and Sullivan say the early results of the pilot are encouraging, pointing to a larger roll-out later this year. 

Read more articles from the 02/03/17 Hotline issue.