GE Healthcare teams with Centrak to introduce battery-based RFID asset optimization solution

Waukesha 23 January 2008GE Healthcare has launched a predominantly battery-operated radio frequency ID (RFID) tracking system in partnership with CenTrak Inc. of Newtown, Pennsylvania. The new asset optimization solution, an innovative introduction to the marketplace, will enable health care facilities to reduce installation barriers and costs, compared to current RFID systems, thereby serving them to maximize return-on-investment (ROI) potential. In addition, the solution's ability to accurately view locations at the room-level will enhance a hospital's operational efficiency and improve overall patient care.

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GE Healthcare, one of the pioneers in the use of RFID in the health care industry, currently has 18 enterprise-wide installations in the United States, 200 work flow consultants, and thousands of managed assets with its RFID tracking systems. Current RFID solution clients include Emory HealthCare, Atlanta, Georgia; Lahey Clinic, Burlington and Peabody, Massachusetts; and Williamson Medical Center, Franklin, Tennessee.

For GE Healthcare, the newly announced product is the next evolution of active-RFID solutions. The Real Time Location System (RTLS) operates on a separate network that does not interfere with existing healthcare networks - both wired and wireless (i.e., 802.11). The solution is designed to accommodate virtually an unlimited number of tags and does not consume valuable bandwidth, providing customers the flexibility to expand their tracking needs and future applications without an additional burden in the health care WiFi proliferation.

The new hybrid DualTrak product, operating on both CenTrak's patented GEN2IR technology and 900 Megahertz (MHz) radio frequency (RF), also employs CenTrak's RTLS, the only predominantly battery-powered RTLS system with room-level accuracy in the world.

"We partnered with CenTrak to deliver what our customers told us they wanted in a medical RFID tracking system: the ability to provide room-level coverage, be accurate and scalable, and be cost-effective", stated Bret Barczak, Director of Marketing, GE Healthcare. "Prior to this latest evolution, traditional RFID installations in a separate, wired infrastructure took six months. Now, with battery-operated readers, it may only take six days, minimizing installation costs, operational disruptions, and other hurdles."

"By partnering with GE Healthcare, we couple GE's established health care expertise in RFID technology with our proven track record of providing precise, adaptable, and cost-effective tracking systems", stated Ari Naim, CEO, CenTrak. "We realized early on that the basic physics of RF-only RTLS solutions, such as WiFi RTLS, can never deliver a reliable room-level location and will always be just estimates with unpredictable accuracy. By incorporating our patented GEN2IR technology, trusted location accuracy can now be reliably delivered. It is no secret that room-level accuracy is the key to unlocking the most valuable functionality for many RFID applications and significantly impacting customer's ROI."

CenTrak Inc. is a provider of precise, adaptable and cost-effective equipment and people tracking solutions. The company has introduced its InTouch Care, a Real Time Location System (RTLS), to the health care market. The system's battery-powered design makes installation easier and more cost-effective than competing RTLS solutions, while its patented DualTrak technology offers unmatched accuracy, reliability and functionality.

For years, hospitals have sought a way to accurately track patients, personnel and equipment in order to improve patient flow and equipment utilization. However, current tracking solutions have proven either difficult and costly to install due to heavy wiring, or else they have failed to accurately pinpoint assets to the room level or sub-room level. CenTrak's InTouch Care RTLS solves both problems in one user-friendly solution.

Unlike tracking solutions that require heavy wiring, InTouch Care is the first tracking system to rely on batteries as the main power source, eliminating in-room wiring and enabling plug-and-play functionality.

"Our low-power in-room sensors, called Spiders, use batteries with a five-year lifespan, so no power or network wiring is required to our battery powered components", stated Ari Naim, CenTrak President and CEO. "Just clip the Spiders to ceiling tiles or walls, and the InTouch Care system is ready to go."

Another challenge that current WiFi, RFID, UWB and custom-RF tracking systems present is that they may estimate location reasonably well in open spaces outside but inside buildings the estimates are reduced to within a large bubble, as RF signals bleed through floors and walls. CenTrak's InTouch Care goes beyond approximations and zones to show and track precise locations, thanks to a patented combination of Gen2IR and active RFID called DualTrak.

DualTrak uses a second-generation infrared technology (Gen2IR), which does not penetrate walls, making it possible to guarantee virtually fail-proof room-level accuracy. Gen2IR offers all of the advantages of infrared, such as containing light in a room, without any line-of-sight requirements.

"If a tracking system is off by merely inches, it can send clinicians to the wrong room, or even the wrong floor", Ari Naim added. "Our DualTrak technology enables virtual walls that provide sub-room level accuracy. It is visible under multiple layers of blankets, or it can even indicate the direction a tag is facing, which can be a vital piece of data."

The breakthrough DualTrak technology not only creates a widely-affordable infrastructure, but it also provides room-level and sub-room-level accuracy to enable valuable applications such as increasing patient flow, improving work flow processes, maximizing asset utilization rates, and minimizing loss or theft.

In addition to a higher level of accuracy and ease of installation, InTouch Care offers many other features and benefits. All system components, tags, monitors and access points are equipped with two-way RF communication, enabling a variety of functions, such as monitoring system health. Buttons and LEDs on tags can be customized for different purposes. For example, a nurse can use a button to indicate that a patient is ready for a procedure. Or, the environmental services department could use the technology to indicate that the room status has changed. Transport personnel can use the solution to confirm a patient's location or to facilitate the discharge process. These events can all increase hospital capacity rates.

A number of accessories are available for the tags, so they can be worn around the wrist or neck, or even clipped to clothing or badges. Removal detection sensors ensure that tags remain with their intended equipment. And, because InTouch Care is highly scalable, it can track tens of thousands of tags while covering millions of square feet.

GE Healthcare provides transformational medical technologies and services that are shaping a new age of patient care. Its expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, performance improvement, drug discovery, and biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies is helping clinicians around the world re-imagine new ways to predict, diagnose, inform, treat, and monitor disease, so patients can live their lives to the fullest. More company news can be found in the VMW March 2007 article Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network partners with GE Healthcare.


Leslie Versweyveld

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