Real Time Location Tracking Systems use RFID technologies to allow hospitals and clinics to keep tabs on hospital assets and equipment. RTLS systems are wireless, with transmitter tags attached to items or personnel that are being tracked. Hospitals in urban regions maintain a high value inventory with implants, drugs and other medical devices and equipment. They regularly register losses of several million dollars due to theft and misplacement of supplies and equipment. Over 90% of hospitals that have installed RFID systems have seen significant return on investment. The technology can keep a track of movement of these devices within the hospitals and reduce losses. Even public and government institutions are installing these systems and this represents the keenness to modernize healthcare facilities. In 2013, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to spend US$ 543 million to outfit all 152 of its hospitals and seven outpatient pharmacies with real-time location systems (RTLS) and millions of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, which provided sufficient cause for other hospitals to look into its advantages. RFID and RTLS is being deployed extensively in several industries for asset tracking applications such as primary care facilities, research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, distribution centers, fleet vans, maintenance depots and other areas across the healthcare value chain. Hospitals and clinics may track medical equipment and consumables. EMS teams may need to pay extra attention to the location of small, highly mobile supplies and equipment stored on their trucks. Conventionally considered for only large hospitals, the technology now is also being used for small hospitals and clinics. Major assets in healthcare that are monitored are infusion pumps, ventilators, wheelchairs, bariatric equipment, patient monitors and nebulizers.
The market is currently nascent by nature which is evident since only a fourth of all hospitals have applied RLTS in United States. The market is in the growth phase even in Europe, with Germany and U.K. contributing the largest to the market. The RLTS uses several wireless technologies such as WiFi, RFID, ultrasound, ZigBee and other technologies. WiFi has contributed impressively and has become both ubiquitous in healthcare and demonstrates impressive gains in performance and security, it is widely used as infrastructure for asset tracking. The system can even be a combination of all these networking technologies. The major driver for the market of these systems is unmet demand for inventory management and reducing cost of these electronic technologies and the hardware and software technologies are simple to implement and maintain. The market challenges are restricted by the awareness which is low and also due to low investment and funding available for expansion in developing regions of the world as well as the remote parts of developed regions.
RLTS has found major uses in tracking high value oncology drugs, radiological equipment, cardiovascular drugs and devices such as defibrillators, heart-valves, stents and catheters. The technology is also useful in tracking patients who may have travelled astray in very large hospitals. These patients are made to wear RFID tags on their wrists. RLTS can also be applied to logistics within the hospital since it can prevent shortages and increase transparency in the system to prevent misappropriation of hospital equipment by staff since the RLTS can also be used to locate physicians and nurses precisely. It can also be used for tracking inventory from manufacturers to the respective hospitals and clinics. High quality visibility software has made pinpointing of assets easy. The market for RLTS is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 8.7% from 2016 to 2020. Key players in this segment are AeroScout, InnerWireless, Versus, Ekahau, Centrak, Cisco, Comtact Healthcare, McKesson and Radianse among several others in this highly fragmented market. There are several other players catering to niche areas within the market such as manufacturing and sale of RFID Smart cabinets, scanners and tags.
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