Beth Israel to pilot PanGo's asset tracking technology

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), a busy hospital in Boston, needed a way to more efficiently track critical biomedical equipment as well as patients and medical staff. But it also wanted to leverage its enterprise investment in wireless networks to provide the necessary asset-tracking technology.

So John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare Systems/BIDMC, turned to a wireless LAN-based asset-tracking and visibility system for hospitals from Framingham, Mass.-based PanGo Networks Inc. The company's PanGo Locator/Healthcare geolocationing technology uses a standards-based 802.11 wireless access-point infrastructure as its reader network, eliminating the need for single-use, proprietary radio frequency readers and networks and saving money.

PanGo's Locator system includes middleware, application, data and visualization layers as well as RF identification tags, the company said in an announcement today.

"Beth Israel is one of the pilot sites," said PanGo Chief Technology Officer Richard Barnwell. "They'll be starting installation (at) the end of this month, (and) it will run through a couple months in the fall. They'll be piloting it in the emergency room and the cardiac care unit to track mobile medical equipment and medical staff as well to help them with workflow analysis."

Beth Israel is currently doing campuswide wireless LAN deployments to provide wireless voice-over-IP and location-based services and data connectivity, according to Halamka. Cisco is the WLAN provider.

"Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center has probably millions and millions of dollars of mission-critical equipment -- one of the problems you want to solve is how to track that equipment," Halamka said. "It would save a lot of time and energy. Now, I'll be honest: Between US$300,000 and $400,000 worth of hospital equipment each year disappears, because in the course of normal care it gets misplaced. What RFID does, in an active way, is to say right now where our equipment is."

Halamka said the hospital is also going to use PanGo's technology in the emergency department to track patients and clinicians. "It's very good for us to know where's the doctor, where's the patient," he said.

Part of the implementation is to integrate patient geolocationing with the hospital's electronic white board, a 50-in. plasma screen with each patient's details -- although names are shown only with initials to protect privacy, he said.

"Now, we'll not only be able to show that Mrs. Smith has had this lab result and is going to be admitted to cardiology but that the patient is currently in radiology receiving a test," Halamka said. "So there's a lot of workflow optimization just making the throughput of your ER work better because you can coordinate all the caregivers and all the patients."

Halamka said Beth Israel chose PanGo because of the hospital's investment in wireless infrastructure.

"I really don't want to run a redundant network or use a funky technology like infrared or something like that to track stuff," Halamka said. "What a joy if I can literally say the wireless network is already there, and now it does something else -- providing seamless wireless geolocationing as well as seamless voice over IP, in addition to providing seamless wireless data -- over one network and over one infrastructure.

"That's a huge win for me as a CIO," he said.

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