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Danny Cummings, Colchester Hospital

Networks First and Ekahau Inc. implement technology that allows staff to track equipment in the hospital to drive work-flow efficiencies and increase patient safety and satisfaction.

Colchester General Hospital is deploying wireless technology to track the whereabouts of valuable and potentially lifesaving clinical equipment across its estate. The deployment of the solution has been made possible by using the hospital’s wireless Cisco network in conjunction with consultancy and implementation services from Networks First and the installation of an Ekahau Real-time Location Tracking System (RTLS).

Ekahau RTLS tags have been fitted to various items, including specialist wheelchairs, beds, portable ventilators, a cardiac monitor, a humidification unit – and even a commode. Using the hospital Wi-Fi system, the tags can communicate with the RTLS Controller and Vision software which means that the clinical staff can swiftly and simply locate an item from their personal computer or laptop.

“In the past staff would spend up to 45 minutes trying to track down specific equipment. I think RFID, should stand for Rapidly Find Important Devices. Using these tags has meant that the critical care outreach nurses can start life-saving treatment quicker than previously possible which has had a very positive impact on the deteriorating patients we get called to,” said Danny Cummings, a nurse with the critical outreach team, Colchester General Hospital.

Some of the equipment that has been tagged is expensive. For example, the portable ventilators each cost more than £10,000.

“This is one of the first of what we hope will be many benefits for patients and staff of our wireless infrastructure. It’s early days but the feedback so far from clinical colleagues has been extremely positive,” said Dave Gibson, Infrastructure Manager at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

“They tell us the system is easy to use meaning they can locate equipment quickly which reduces delays for patients and shortens the time staff have to spend tracking critical equipment down.”

In the past equipment was not stolen but regularly misplaced or stored away in cupboards and then could not be found by the staff who needed it next. There have even been examples where kit has turned up in linen cupboards. Some equipment is portable and some wards and departments share items, which means it is not always straightforward to locate.

As well as finding an item, clinical staff can also use the system to trace its movement around the hospital. If an item is removed from the hospital, the system can alert staff members and it is easy to identify the time it went off-site and where it was last located.

A separate wireless network connection in the Radiology Department at Colchester General Hospital is enabling staff to trial digital radiology. This allows x-rays appear instantly on a computer screen rather than having to download them by putting a cassette into a different machine, resulting in increased efficiency and reduced backlogs of patients in the Radiology Department.

Because the wireless infrastructure is available throughout the hospital, the solution could be expanded to wards and theatres. In addition, diagnostic ultrasound scans are being made and stored via the wireless system on the Trust’s Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS), so the referring clinician can see them instantly.

Future application of wireless technology in Colchester will include giving doctors tablet devices like iPads so they can order diagnostic tests such blood tests and scans without having to fill in forms manually.

About Ekahau Inc.

Ekahau Inc. is the industry leader in providing Wi-Fi-based RTLS solutions. Ekahau's customers, including several Fortune 500 companies worldwide, are realizing the benefits of Wi-Fi based location services and innovative Wi-Fi network planning and optimization tools. Ekahau’s solutions are being used in more than 300 hospitals around the world, as well as by manufacturing, retail and industrial companies, government agencies and the military. Ekahau partners include wireless software developers, leading system integrators and international OEM partners, who develop and market wireless enterprise applications. Ekahau is a U.S.-based corporation, with headquarters in Reston, VA, and other offices in Saratoga, CA; Helsinki, Finland; Tokyo; and Hong Kong. For more information about Ekahau, please visit

About Network First

Networks First is a leading independent provider of converged network services, helping organisations to achieve more from their existing communications infrastructures. A services led organisation, Networks First’s highly experienced team of consultants and engineers guarantee business critical communications through a range of multi-vendor and mixed technology services and solutions.

Headquartered in Redditch, Network First operates throughout the UK, working with a broad range of vendor partners such as Cisco, HP, Mitel, Aruba, and Extreme, to provide guaranteed support to customers. A centralised Network Operations and Technical Assistance Centre is at the heart of the business, backed up by a spares inventory in excess of £4.5m. For more information, please visit , email or call the Networks First Marketing department on 0845 850 5577


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