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Published March 29, 2013, 11:30 PM

Veterans’ health care company’s focus

FARGO – When patients check in at Family HealthCare, they’re handed a small electronic tag to wear around their neck.

By: Dan Gunderson, MPR News 90.3 FM, INFORUM

FARGO – When patients check in at Family HealthCare, they’re handed a small electronic tag to wear around their neck.

Staff members also wear the tracking tags. Everyone shows up as icons on a computerized map of the building.

The map is part of the software created by Intelligent InSites, a Fargo company. Other companies provide the devices to track equipment and inventory and monitor temperatures.

A $500 million project to make Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals more efficient means growth for Intelligent InSites, which will install its software in 152 VA medical centers nationwide.

At Family HealthCare, Intelligent InSites software follows equipment or patient movements, automates tasks such as ordering supplies, and stores data.

“We can actually visually see on the map here that my location right now is back here in registration,” said Cathy Wasson, a senior system application analyst at Family HealthCare during a recent tour. “There I am on the map.”

Wasson is in charge of managing the real time tracking system at the clinic. She said the system also shows equipment like wheelchairs on the map, and shows if a patient is using the wheelchair. It also monitors how staff members interact with patients.

“So when that patient is in the exam room, every time the nurse goes in or the provider goes in, it’s also picking up that nurse or provider staff tag and catching that in real time, as well saying that patient is now in the room with a nurse or provider,” Wasson said.

Chief Operating Officer Pat Gulbranson said the clinic is just starting to collect detailed data from the tracking tags. He said that information will be analyzed to look for ways to make the clinic more efficient and reduce the time patients spend waiting.

“I believe we’re one of probably just a handful kind of on that leading edge of looking at patient flows and tracking patients throughout the clinical experience,” he said. “So we’re looking to learn along the way here.”

Clinic staffers are watching for any privacy concerns involved with tracking patients or staff. But so far, Gulbranson said, there have been no objections.

The VA will implement the tracking system at its facilities in phases over the next five years, using Hewlett Packard as its primary contractor. But initially, the system will not be used to track patients or staff as the VA is still negotiating privacy issues with employee unions.

The initial focus at VA facilities will be on saving money by tracking equipment and supplies.

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