WiFi tags worn as necklaces by residents at aged care facility

Serious customization required for project to work

Queensland aged care provider PresCare has implemented a Wi-Fi Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) solution to monitor the location of its residents within its 38 bed Gold Coast complex.

The system creates a topography of the Mount Tamborine complex through a network of 14 Wi-Fi enabled nodes dubbed "exciters", which are distributed in the facility's roof.

Each exciter has an individual detection circumference of two metres, and are set to provide enhanced detection over choke points such as doors.

Residents wear rugged, waterproof RFID tags in the form of necklaces, or a removable or fixed wristbands which send alerts to networked phones, staff hand-held devices, and video monitors when abnormalities are detected, such as dementia residents leaving the premises, or if the tag's distress button is pushed.

PresCare CIO Greg Skelton said the system will be rolled out at a further two sites, following its success in the two month live period since implementation began in January.

"We're looking at deploying the system very soon in our 60-bed Ipswitch facility, and may install it in our 154-bed Carina complex in about 12 months," Skelton said.

The system has replaced a buzzer-alert system, typical of aged-care facilties, where staff respond to room-mounted buzzers which do not provide further information on the residents' condition.

The new solution can be configured to trigger alerts based on rules like off-limit zones, or a lack of patient movement over a set time period.

Skelton said while the $100,000 system costs roughly a third more than traditional buzzer systems, it gives flexibility to staff and bolsters the safety of residents.

"There is a lot of serious work that needs to go into customizing an RFID system; we spent hours on the phone discussing structural concerns but you can't beat it," he said.

Skelton said he has plans to invest in future RFID projects, such as a similar system capable of detecting changes in horizontal and vertical plans which can indicate a patient fall.

The Iraeli-designed AeroScout system includes its MobileView tracking software which allows Web-enabled devices to perform real-time searches for residents, and creation of incident reports.

Skelton is considering further expanding the complex's IT capabilities by installing video-on-demand in resident rooms, and additional monitoring devices.

A similar RFID tag system is being implemented in a Canberra correctional facility which will use real-time prisoner tracking via an RFID chip worn around the wrist or ankle.

As reported in Computerworld, the $1.2 million system links RFID tags worn by prisoners and wardens to the facility's CCTV system and guard pagers, which tracks the location of inmates once an alert is triggered by an abnormality like the removal of a tag.

The system has a refresh rate of around two seconds, with a range that covers the entire prison, while the tags have a termal detection capability that prevents device tampering.

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