· A Real-Time Solution for Long-Lost Equipment
· IMIX Debuts DR Line

A Real-Time Solution for Long-Lost Equipment

With all the little nooks, crannies, corridors, and wings of a hospital, it can be quite the challenge to monitor every piece of equipment that makes its way around the institution. In fact, a 2006 report even suggested that the average hospital misplaces up to 15% of valuable equipment annually. A portable x-ray unit could lose its way from the emergency department to the intensive care unit, for example.

Awareness Tags attached to mobile equipment keeps it from getting lost.

That’s why—with the goal of increasing security, improving workflow efficiency, and optimizing patient care—more and more facilities are turning to radiofrequency identification asset-management providers who offer real-time location and tracking services.

“RFID has been around for quite some time, and hospitals have been looking at this technology for a while, too. Recently, they’ve become a little bit more mainstream,” said Jason Howe, CEO of Awarepoint Corp, San Diego. “In the last year, we’ve been able to really deploy these things.”

Hospitals’ complicated infrastructures make IT installations costly and time-consuming, Howe said. Providers not only must take hospital regulations into consideration, but they also must be wary of creating physical dust. In the past, rooms had to be completely empty so that IT firms could hardwire wireless access points.

Used to track both equipment and people, Awarepoint’s Real-Time Awareness Solution combines technology and services to provide timely information about the business operations of a facility. Wireless sensors, which can be installed anywhere in a facility, are plugged into electrical outlets, and the resulting network can map resources, monitor activity, and measure performance. Small, battery-powered Awareness Tags are securely attached to equipment, while patient and staff fasten their tags to their belt clips, lanyards, or ID bracelets. These tags have the ability to generate time-stamped reports that are shown in printable format. Because no hardwiring or additional access points are required, installation takes only days and is nondisruptive, even in patient-occupied rooms.

“Awarepoint utilizes a ZigBee wireless mesh network along with sophisticated, patented algorithms, making it the fastest, least disruptive installation in the industry, while delivering the precision and accuracy required for asset-tracking applications,” Howe explained, adding that the network coexists with other technologies, such as Wi-Fi.

As a result, x-ray equipment, such as mobile CR units or lead shields, can be accounted for at all times. Patients consequently wait around less for images to be taken, thereby streamlining workflow efficiency. The technology also has useful applications in facilities without an online imaging system; hospital staff can easily track hard images, and the films can be tagged for individual patients.

Awarepoint?s RFID solution helps hospitals map resources and monitor activity throughout the institution.

In addition to its seamless installation, Awarepoint’s ultralow-power IEEE standard 802.15.4 radio technology presents a number of benefits, including a long battery life, constant calibration, and self-healing properties. An intuitive Searchpoint interface enables searches by specific location or unique asset identifier—for example, by floor, area, or room, or department owner, type, or model number. The company also provides around-the-clock remote system monitoring, service, and support.

Howe believes that hospitals will eventually be going completely wireless, and he anticipates the application of patient tags through the continuum of care. An increasing number of families are looking toward accessing information via the Internet, whether at the hospital or at home, and Howe said his company will continue to form strategic partnerships that focus on developing newer applications of RFIDs for this purpose. The future, to Howe, seems limitless. “Every day, someone is coming up with a new way to use this technology,” said Howe.

—Elaine Sanchez

IMIX Debuts DR Line

The PanoRAD is ideal for facilities with low ceilings.

At the 2007 meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), IMIX Americas Inc, Sterling, Va, announced the launch of its new IMIX insight line. The new line includes the IMIX insight PanoRAD, the IMIX insight NovoRAD, and the IMIX insight OrthoRAD, all full-featured digital radiography (DR) products.

“The insight line is in response to customer needs,” explained Sigrid Smitt-Jeppesen, president and CEO of IMIX Americas. “We’ve been around for a while, and we’ve been listening to feedback.”

Feedback from the orthopedic community led to the OrthoRAD, a partially motorized, straight-arm system featuring tools designed for orthopedic imaging needs, including special software options. “They’re a price-sensitive group,” said Smitt-Jeppesen. “They need stitching software, and they also do a lot of surgical planning. They also wanted a weight-bearing stand to put over the detector, and we gave them that.”

Then there’s the company’s new PanoRAD system, which offers a small footprint and a new stand design that offers a high level of flexibility. “It’s a floor-mounted stand with an arm on it,” said Smitt-Jeppesen. “We have a system much like that, but the feedback from the community was that they wanted to be able to angle the detector a lot more. And they wanted a remote control, because sometimes maneuvering becomes an issue, and something with a four-way floating tabletop, so they could save their backs.”

The PanoRAD’s small footprint and flexibility also make it ideal for clinics or hospitals with ceiling-height limitations. “It will install easily in a room that’s only eight feet to the ceiling, which is an issue in older buildings with low ceilings, like those in Manhattan,” said Smitt-Jeppesen. “That market has gone largely unaddressed by DR until the PanoRAD.”

The OrthoRAD was designed based on input from the orthopedic community.

Finally, the company introduced the NovoRAD DR, which includes an upright stand, the fixed four-way floating tabletop, and ceiling-mounted tube support. “A lot of the techs out there prefer to work with an overhead tube model,” said Smitt-Jeppesen. “That’s what they’re used to working with, and they prefer it. We wanted to see if we could put together something that made it possible to make do with one detector for everything without being slowed down. That’s what the NovoRAD offers. You get all the functionality of two detectors, but you only need to pay for one.”

So far, Smitt-Jeppesen says IMIX has taken orders for systems to be installed in March and April. “From a quality perspective, we prestage everything here at our facility,” she noted. “That’s key because we sell to smaller hospitals, clinics, and imaging centers that typically only have one or two x-ray rooms. Once they pull out the old room, they want everything working right away.”

By prestaging at IMIX headquarters, the company is able to catch any problems before installation, reducing the span of implementation to around a week. “Our typical install time is only two and a half days,” said Smitt-Jeppesen. “And then we send in our applications specialist, and she does the training with the techs on-site. So we’re in and out in a week.”

Next, says Smitt-Jeppesen, IMIX will look at software enhancements. “We’re in the process of growing,” she said. “We’re always trying to figure out what the next step is.”

—Cat Vasko