13 min read

Reshaping Healthcare With Real-Time Location Solutions From CenTrak

Real-time location systems (RTLS) are building healthier, more efficient hospitals. But how do they work in real healthcare settings and what results do they enable?

Find out in our recent episode of The Health/Tech Edge, a podcast dedicated to the latest trends and innovations transforming healthcare, as Nick Adriance, Director of Global Software Product Management at CenTrak, joined Productive Edge’s Raheel Retiwalla, Chief Strategy Officer, and Mike Moore, VP Strategic Partnerships,  to share his insights on how CenTrak helps clients address their unique challenges and successfully deploy tailored RTLS technology to gain actionable insights across any department, hospital, or healthcare system, transforming healthcare efficiency, safety, and patient and staff experiences. 

Listen to the full conversation or keep on reading the summarized transcription of the conversation to learn more about the true potential of real-time location tracking.



Mike Moore: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Health/Tech Edge, where we talk about the latest topics in healthcare technology with industry experts. I'm your host, Mike Moore. Today our guest is Nick Adriance, Director of Global Software Product Management at CenTrak. Nick, welcome to the show. Also our panelist, as always, Raheel Retiwalla, Chief Strategy Officer of Productive Edge. 

Today's discussion is an interesting one: the notion of real-time location solutions in a healthcare environment. Nick, this is your area of expertise and what you're working on day-to- day, so help introduce the audience to this concept of real-time location solutions and a little bit of background and kind of how they're used in a healthcare organization today.

Nick Adriance: Real-time location solutions can cover a wide range of use cases. Everything from asset management, staff duress, infection control, wayfinding, patient workflows, and really, the technology rides on infrastructure deployed within a hospital, tagging of patients, tagging of medical equipment, staff badges as well too. The technology can actually be used to locate staff, used to locate equipment as well, and it's really geared towards driving operational efficiencies within a hospital.

There's lots of different use cases that customers have leveraged it for from asset loss and prevention to delivering, like I said, a staff duress message, workflows can be optimized as well too. The technology has been around for quite a while. It's really evolving now, more into the BLE space, WIFI, still using 900 megahertz, IR, things like that as well.

But hospitals have really been able to see not only savings with it, but able to improve the overall patient experience and patient workflows as well.

Mike Moore: So in many ways, you know retail and RFID and this kind of concept, like you said, is not necessarily new and maybe not even new in the healthcare organization, but I think what the potential exists now, I'm thinking a lot about data and AI, workflows and automation, and some of those kind of scenarios. I have to imagine that's inspiring a whole new wave of innovation for health care organizations.  

Nick Adriance: I think what’s interesting is that while customers initially grasp the basic value of locating items, they often discover new applications once the system is in use. These include tracking crash cart inventories, optimizing patient workflows, and even using the technology for contact tracing during events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raheel Retiwalla: Nick and Mike, I'm a data nerd at heart, and I can just imagine the types of use cases that this can enable beyond, of course, the ones that you've mentioned, which I would say foundational. When you think about the challenge that health systems have, staff challenges, scheduling challenges, patient engagement challenges, understanding and being able to use this real-time data to better forecast, whether it's staff, the skills and the staff that you would need, to where patients need to be, or even planning, the right types of patients in the right types of places, to minimize the back-end sort of frustration that happens when trying to get people from one place to another.

I just can think of many opportunities to use this data for that purpose. So I'm assuming that your platform has a good API or a way to actually consume this information in real time or after the fact?

Nick Adriance: We absolutely do. Our systems are fully integrated with customer operations, which is standard practice for us. We provide seamless data integration, from raw location data to more complex applications like staff duress alerts, across various middleware to enhance operational efficiency at larger sites. The interoperability of our systems allows healthcare organizations to further analyze the data through their own systems or data lakes. Our solutions support a range of functions, from staff badge assignments to automating workflows that were previously manual. Our customers regularly utilize our system's data, whether through bidirectional or unidirectional communication, to make informed decisions across different hospital departments.

Mike Moore: What's the most common in terms of the first use case? What makes a customer, a hospital, come to you guys in the first place looking at a solution like this? And maybe it was different during COVID times and it's evolving, but what are some initial use cases?  

Nick Adriance: Oftentimes we get customers that come to us out the gate with asset tracking. Having asset tracking once the infrastructure is installed allows you to really expand use cases from there as well. We can have customers come to us and want to do staff duress for the emergency department. But you're able to really grow and expand the use cases once you're able to prove it out using the same type of infrastructure. So it really allows them to start to broaden when they say “Hey, I can see the value of this now for asset prevention,” “I can see the value of this now for hey, it's a life safety system, but then really broaden out from there to infection control, environmental monitoring, patient work close as well too.

Once it's really installed and understood and the value is proven and seen, it can be really limitless from there about how it's applied in different areas throughout the hospital. 

Mike Moore: And the duress scenario, can you just talk and describe for people what that means? And I'm guessing that you've got a button press on the badge or something that signals that there's an emergency and maybe security needs to respond.

Nick Adriance: You're exactly right. We're able to locate somebody down to a room level, bedside as well. It's essentially a silent alarm, a button press that relays out to different workstations. It can be broadcast out to the specific floor or to a central security area as well. 

It can also be broadcast out to mobile devices and other middlewares to notify people of a duress event that's occurring. So really the goal of it is a silent alarm, but being able to get that clinical team member, somebody to respond to them as fast as possible to de-escalate a situation or ensure their safety.

Raheel Retiwalla: Nick, staying on the topic of emergency, when you think about broader emergency response within health systems, I'm curious as to the learnings that you may have seen when things like COVID happened and a response to that was needed that really needed to mobilize people across the location. Can you talk to us a little bit about some of the things that you noticed and how your solution was used at the time?  

Nick Adriance: I think we hit on it a little bit earlier. The biggest one I think was contact tracing, being able to see all those different interactions. Obviously, being able to know where people were in a stressful time like that as well too, so being able to understand “are we staffed appropriately in our ED?”, “Are we staffed appropriately in different floors?”, depending on the patient volumes that were coming in, but how do you not only locate the equipment that you need to treat all of these folks but then being able to ensure that those interactions between patients or staff members and equipment, and vice versa, was equally important I think during the COVID times. But then how do you report on that as well make sure that you know safety for patients, safety for staff is being taken paramount in a situation like that as well. Which was obviously a very unique time in the world, right?

Raheel Retiwalla: From a getting started perspective. What infrastructure does a health system or large hospital system need to have already in place? You have to be able to start quickly with a platform like this.  

Nick Adriance: I think really one of the things they have is obviously common infrastructure, cable drops, things like that, WIFI infrastructure, access points, things of that nature, which most hospitals are already equipped with. There is some level of installation that has to be done, so oftentimes it's capital investment, maybe in terms of an infrastructure to be able to set up and start doing real time location systems. We work closely with not only IT networks, but also clinicians, those types of staff as well to make sure that even once the infrastructure is deployed, doing the validation, doing the testing, make sure that they're getting the value out of the system that they expected overall. 

Raheel Retiwalla: I know from working with many health systems, one of the challenge, of course, is that guests want access to WIFI, patients want access to WIFI. All systems, network and connectivity is critically important. I'm assuming there are other ways for, for your asset trackers to be utilizing network, uh, network bandwidth outside of Wi Fi. And I'm just curious where the industry, where's the industry headed there? 

Nick Adriance: The industry is increasingly adopting Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) for tasks such as locating tags and proximity sensing through devices like Cisco access points. This shift includes deploying staff badges and asset tags, with the added ability to integrate existing 900 megahertz systems for a multimodal solution. This approach is cost-effective and often leverages pre-existing hospital infrastructure, reducing the need for substantial upfront investments. A significant challenge remains in operationalizing Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) to transform them from a high initial cost item to a critical, everyday business system. Successfully doing so requires hospital staff buy-in and effective integration into daily operations.

Raheel Retiwalla: Are your trackers easily compatible with whatever WIFI network? There's a perception that maybe I'll just use Wifi to get started quickly. Then, if BLE becomes an option,  are your trackers readily  able to transition or do you need different trackers for different connectivity options?  

Nick Adriance: We're moving towards having a BLE staff badge, moving towards BLE asset tags as well. In most cases, the infrastructure is compatible with Cisco, Aruba, Jupyter, the big players out there. There may be some level of an upgrade, but for the most part, out of the box, our devices are all readily available. Once you deploy at a new hospital or let’s say a hospital is upgrading their infrastructure, we're able to work with them in that capacity too.

Raheel Retiwalla: How quickly have you seen ROI achieved by health systems after deploying this technology?  

Nick Adriance: It's a great question. One of our customers in Texas, with over 25,000 assets tagged, has significantly reduced their rental costs. Hospitals often lose track of rental equipment, leading to ongoing charges. By using our TLS, they've not only managed their inventory more effectively, including crash cart management, but they've also discovered additional use cases, enhancing their return on investment. Typically, it takes one to two years for customers to see a tangible ROI, but the benefits extend beyond mere asset tracking to driving broader business value and uncovering new applications for the technology.

Mike Moore: I have to imagine that this is something where as this technology is introduced in a hospital, that there is potentially some staff objections to “you're going to tag me and follow me around all day on my shift, right?” Could you talk a little bit about how both you and also some of your customers have overcome some of that objection around the big brother notion of this tracking? 

Nick Adriance: One of the key factors for successful technology deployment in healthcare is securing buy-in from the start. This involves more than just the IT department; it's crucial to engage clinicians and leaders to understand how the technology will be applied. For example, when deploying staff distress systems, explaining that the technology is designed to enhance safety—with emergency response just a button press away and the ability to locate equipment and monitor patient well-being—can significantly drive engagement and acceptance. However, there are always concerns about privacy, such as fears of being monitored constantly. Addressing these objections is essential, and it requires healthcare organizations to involve their clinical staff and leadership early on. This engagement helps to clarify the purpose of the investment and demonstrate how it can improve the lives and experiences of clinicians and patients alike.

Mike Moore: Reflecting on my wife's experiences as a new nurse at Mass General Hospital nearly 30 years ago, she often managed twice the patients of her colleagues, sometimes under demanding conditions requiring full protective gear. These early challenges highlight the crucial need for efficient staff support systems and equipment management in healthcare. Real-time location solutions not only ensure immediate assistance at the press of a button but also optimize equipment utilization. By accurately tracking and redistributing existing resources, hospitals can enhance care without necessarily increasing inventory. With this data, the potential for developing new and impactful use cases is immense and exciting.

Nick Adriance: You're absolutely right.  Another idea is nurse call automation. So nurses are going in and out of rooms, logging their time automatically, and all that location data can be leveraged to essentially automate all of that. Nurses aren't having to plug in time spent doing all the types of things that they normally would do day-to-day and can focus on patient care. 

Mike Moore: Raheel, we spend a lot of time talking about AI, right? Artificial Intelligence is on everyone's mind, just overall across industries, but then especially in healthcare. Now look at this as a source of data and the real time nature of it. Thinking about all the things that you could do in an AI model, pulling this data together, both for real time as well as future, and predicting next best actions. What are your thoughts about that and where the innovation could go with this information?

Raheel Retiwalla: This information is really important. As you were discussing a little bit earlier, I think that forecasting and prediction are going to be really important use cases. So whether it is around analyzing movement patterns to predict and prevent incidents, patient safety, staffing and staffing needs, environmental monitoring, patient flow, and where the resources need to be. These are incredibly important use cases and AI can absolutely benefit from having access to this data to then drive these predictions and then make that part of the workflow. There's a lot of use cases here beyond the core traditional ones that Nick talked about, right? I see working and speaking to clients that there’s an incredible need for these things. 

Mike Moore: I think even putting the conversational AI piece on the front-end of it, instead of having to go to a system and maybe this is on the product roadmap, Nick, of what you guys are planning for your solution, but you know, not having to go to an interface and using kind of a database query lookup kind of thing, but simply being able to go to a console and say “Where is the closest crash cart?” Obviously, crash carts would be the worst example to use because that should be known and there shouldn't be a question because of the critical nature of when they are needed, but asking it in a natural language kind of format, I would think would be pretty useful for staff as well. 

Nick Adraince: I think the reporting nature of all this, how AI integrates to machine learning and all those buzzwords that we've heard out there is critical. That's really where a lot of the value comes from within these products, not only the location services data, but how are you taking all that aggregating into a dashboard view, reports for nurses, managers, leadership as well to help them make decisions using this information. AI is certainly a roadmap item for us. How does it layer in? What do our customers want to see with it? How can they use it to make decisions? It's going to be equally important down the road. 

Mike Moore: Exciting stuff. Well, thanks for joining us Nick to share this information with us and open some eyes to the possibilities. I think it's an exciting area of technology to explore and consider. It's well tested, they'll be established, and it’s been around for a while. The use cases are evolving in the healthcare setting. Now you combine it with the latest and what's happening in Artificial Intelligence and really it's exciting where things go. Thanks again for joining us and sharing with us about this real time location solution. 

Powering The Future of Healthcare With Realtime Insights

Navigating the complexities of today's healthcare systems requires more than strategic insight; it necessitates the adoption of robust and adaptable technologies like real-time location solutions from CenTrak. These systems enhance patient experiences, improve population health, reduce costs, and better the work lives of healthcare providers. They enable precise tracking of mobile medical equipment, reducing hoarding and search times, and automating tasks such as PAR-level management for greater operational efficiency.

Additionally, real-time location solutions contribute to hospital safety with applications in infant protection, staff duress response, and emergency management. Workflow enhancements are also significant, allowing for the quick analysis of care delivery trends, identifying bottlenecks, eliminating non-value-added tasks, and automating the documentation of clinical milestones. With integration capabilities across a range of leading healthcare systems, including EMR, CMMS, and Nurse Call, real-time location technologies are paving the way for a more organized, effective, and forward-thinking healthcare environment.

Interested in how Artificial Intelligence can enhance realtime insights and create a new wave of innovation in healthcare? Download the latest eBook from our partner, Microsoft, Breaking Down AI: Real Applications in Healthcare.

Ready to discuss your project?

Let's talk