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Bed tracking — a term that’s often used generically to describe a hospital’s bed management activity — actually is the name of a product introduced in 1991 by a Pittsburgh-based vendor now known as Tele-Tracking Technologies.
The technology for BedTracking, which is in place at some 500 hospitals across the nation, was the vendor’s jumping-off point for PreAdmit Tracking and The Electronic BedBoard, which are just completing beta-testing at four hospitals, says Gene Nacey, MHA, the company’s founder and workflow consultant.
The older product "started at the point of discharge or transfer, with a dirty bed," he explains. "We focused on getting that bed clean."
Using an integrated voice response (IVR) system, someone — a volunteer, an escort, or a nurse — enters a number into the telephone that lets the admitting department know the patient is gone, Nacey says. The action also sends a page to the housekeeper assigned to that area. The process — based in the hospital’s existing telephone system — also can be used to alert food service not to send a meal to the room and the pharmacy not to send medications.
"The phone transaction sends an update to an admitting computer terminal or to housekeeping," he adds. "It cuts down about 100 phone calls a day for the average admitting department."
If someone doesn’t start cleaning the room in the amount of time specified by the hospital, the system will page that housekeeping employee’s supervisor, Nacey says. "It’s real-time notification. That simple workflow adjustment dramatically changes the way beds get changed and in how timely a manner people know about it, he adds.
The fact that BedTracking works through a facility’s telephone system keeps the cost down and makes the process easier to implement than wireless tracking systems, Nacey notes. "It turns telephones into mini terminals."
Experience has shown him, Nacey adds, that nurses who usually do not enter discharges into the admission/discharge/transfer system in a timely manner are more efficient when using the telephone to provide the information.
That’s because, he says, "the phone is so much more accessible and it takes 10 seconds or less."