TRAVERSE CITY — The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is the first cancer center in Michigan to track and manage patient flow using the Versus Advantages Real-time Locating System at its newly opened Dresner Family Clinic for Hematologic Malignancies & Stem Cell Transplantation.

The system is a product of Traverse City-based Versus Technology Inc.

The center, which sees more than 6,000 new patients annually, strives to find ways in which to improve services, says Kathleen Fedoronko, Karmanos’ executive director of patient care services.

A patient satisfaction survey conducted in 2010 pointed to one area in need of improvement — patient wait times. Fedoronko notes that the time studies Karmanos used to identify possible causes of long waits were labor-intensive and, as a result, were done infrequently.

“We really felt we didn’t have a great sense overall of our throughput issues,” she said. “That’s when we became interested in electronic (patient tracking) systems.”

When the decision was made to build the Dresner Family Clinic, a new space that combines two previously separate clinics, Karmanos knew technology could ease the transition and manage patient flow in the much larger 16,000-square-foot area. The center selected Versus Advantages Clinic system.

As the most deployed RTLS in healthcare for automated patient flow, Versus helps Karmanos manage the visits of more than 250 patients per week through the Dresner Clinic’s 16 exam rooms and 13 infusion rooms.

Both patients and staff at the cancer center wear Versus Clearview Badges, which communicate room-level location through low-power infrared and radio frequency signals. Rules-based clinical workflow automation software provides real-time situational awareness to staff, allowing them to view patient progression and room status on workstations and four 42-inch overhead screens.

The system tracks patient and staff workflow to identify bottlenecks for process improvement and to enhance patient safety.

“We are looking at specific milestones, like how long it takes from the time the patient walks in the door to the time they get triaged, to when they get their vitals taken,” says Valerie Fred, an operations support specialist at Karmanos. “Then we’re looking at the patients’ overall length of stay. And we’re also looking at that data separated by physician, to see the variability between physicians and how they’re operating in the environment.”

But it’s the real-time workflow management that is especially important to the clinic.

Said Fred: “Patient visits can be very involved. They are seen by pharmacists, possibly a social worker, a bone marrow transplant coordinator — there’s so many different people that may come in and out of that patient’s room while they’re here.”

With the Versus displays, each caregiver can know at a glance what needs to happen next during the patient’s visit. The automated communication of patient status eliminates a lot of wasted time on the phone, asking who’s where and what’s next.

Versus also communicates room status (occupied, empty, reserved, or needing cleaning), making room turnover more efficient.

“This has been fabulous in that we can all, at a glance, see if a patient arrives early, if a patient is late, how they’re doing compared to their appointment time, who’s seeing them, why they’re here, and their overall length of stay,” Fred said. “We’ve come to rely on it quite a bit in a short period of time.”

Based on the success of Versus Advantages at the Dresner Family Clinic, Karmanos is currently planning to expand utilization of the RTLS.

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