A Canadian hospital is piloting a Visionstate IoT solution to bring visibility to room cleaning, and the facility is using RFID to locate mobile assets for reuse.
August 08, 2022vision status first delivered its Internet of Things (IoT) offerings so that hospitals could track facility space services, such as cleaning and restocking public bathrooms. Its solutions use traffic sensors, QR codes, near field communication (NFC) and tablets or smartphones running an app known as WANDA, which captures a view of the maintenance performed, as well as when and the time it took to do it. Now the company has expanded its offering, with hospitals piloting its RFID-based asset management feature within WANDA so they can track cleaning of not just stationary rooms, such as sections of bathrooms , but also critical equipment used in patient care, such as wheelchairs or pumps.
Visionstate serves hospitals, as well as other spaces where cleaning is needed. The Alberta-based company added RFID functionality to its existing WANDA platform based on demand from hospital customers facing increased pressure due, in part, to the COVID-19 pandemic. With passive UHF RFID tags added to mobile equipment, WANDA can track where items are, when they moved, when they provided patient care, and when they were cleaned. This way, hospitals can better ensure that equipment is ready when needed.
“Tracking critical assets is an important part of effective operations,” said John Putters, CEO of Visionstate. “RFID tracking helps control inventory and accurately measure usage and consumption.” The company has experience in RFID solutions and offers asset management technology for the oil and gas industry through its solution partner, Safe-T-Whip. The RFID solution provides companies that rent equipment in the oil and gas industry the ability to track and streamline product inventory and movement.
Each product is given an RFID tag and can then be tracked via RFID readers as it enters and leaves defined areas, such as warehouses or supply rooms. This process has improved inventory management, Putters says, and provides more accurate data for billing purposes, based on how long a given product has been leased.
Bringing RFID to Hospitals for Asset Management
Now, says Putters, RFID can be used as part of the WANDA solution in the healthcare industry. Traditionally, WANDA has helped hospitals ensure proper cleaning services. About half of Visionstate’s customers are healthcare companies and the other half are cleaning service companies that serve them. The initial goal, he recalls, was to ensure that services were delivered correctly and efficiently. Facilities management is labor-based, Putters notes, so how companies use labor is crucial.
IoT technology can track the time workers spend in a specified space, such as the restroom. Cleaning staff can use their phone or tablet when entering an area that needs cleaning. First, they can log into the WANDA app, which creates a record of who starts each new task, and as they scan sensors in the room, they can follow instructions indicating what task has been completed. This data can be linked with other sensor-based information, such as data pulled from people counters, to track room usage since the last cleaning, as well as the number of hits to soap dispensers. Visionstate partners with Torquewhich distributors of hand hygiene products capture this data.
During the pandemic, the company has seen increased demand from hospitals seeking to follow cleaning protocols for health safety purposes. The company developed its mobile app to respond to the latest cleaning protocols, which were released in 2021. However, a Canadian hospital (who asked to remain anonymous) that uses technology for toilet cleaning management also wanted to follow. stretcher cleaning protocol. and wheelchairs. This is where RFID offers an advantage, says Putters. “It is very difficult to clean something [when] you don’t know where it is,” he explains.
The two requirements for the hospital were that it could track the location of each asset, as well as cleaning that item. “That’s when we started looking at RFID, especially for our use,” says Putters. “As soon as we took this route, all of a sudden, a lot of our customers were asking for a similar solution.” As a result, the company integrated an RFID-based asset management system into its application earlier this year.
Tracking what was cleaned and where
“We’ve always been a proponent of clean spaces,” says Putters, “but the addition of RFID is a good differentiator for us because it adds an important element of functionality for this industry.” Typically, he explains, a UHF RFID tag (Visionstate uses Link Labs‘ label products) is affixed to the assets, and the unique identification number encoded on the label is linked to data from the WANDA application. Each time the tag is read, this information is updated in the system, showing where it is and, in some cases, what action is being taken (cleaning or maintenance, for example).
The system can use either handheld RFID readers used by staff members when moving around the facility or interacting with assets, or fixed readers that can be deployed in key areas, such as at the entrance to a department or a room, or at the elevator doors. The app can provide a dashboard that displays all items that need maintenance, along with their location. It can also issue alerts if an item is misplaced or past its scheduled maintenance date.
Pilot tracks location and status of stretchers and wheelchairs
The Canadian hospital is initially testing the RFID version of WANDA in a wing of its building, to track stretchers and wheelchairs. The medical facility was already using the WANDA system for managing cleaning services. The data now all flows into the single WANDA portal, where analytics can manage the efficiency of cleaning services in static areas like bathrooms, while tracking assets.
After the six-month pilot project, the company intends to undertake a full commercial deployment of its asset management system with RFID tags. Visionstate positions itself as a cleaning and hygiene-visibility company for its healthcare customers, as opposed to an RFID technology company. RFID-based functionality, says Putters, “is a product that is more than just stand-alone RFID technology – it is integrated with the rest of our solution, where data can be compiled for global views and analytics of the health and public safety”.
The primary goal of hospitals, Putters notes, is to create a safe environment for patients and staff. He sees the trends created by the pandemic making it harder for these facilities to meet their expectations without technology. With staff shortages, workers are often less experienced. They stay on the job for a shorter time, he says, and therefore need on-site instruction and management support provided by WANDA.
Ultimately, Visionstate plans to continue offering its RFID technology to other industries, including oil and gas. The company says it makes upgrades to its cloud-based database and application based on customer needs.
Key points to remember:
- Visionstate was already offering IoT tools to track cleaning tasks in hospitals as pandemic demands push facilities to upgrade and improve cleaning services.
- The WANDA Asset Management System is designed to help users visualize the efficiency and speed of room cleaning, and RFID technology will allow them to find loose items that need repair.