Scott Hondros and Caryn Hewitt from CenTrak join Ryan Chacon on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss RTLS and IT infrastructure in healthcare. They talk about smart hospitals, the stakeholders in medtech, getting buy-in from organizations, the challenges for IoT adoption in healthcare, dealing with legacy systems, and how to adopt RTLS for your business.
About Scott Hondros
Scott Hondros is the Vice President of Professional Services at CenTrak. He is passionate about partnering with healthcare systems to increase their operational performance and clinical throughput. Through a combination of clinical, analytical, and strategic expertise, Scott and his team are able to assist clients in solving complex challenges their organizations face – especially as staff shortages, workplace violence, and supply challenges continue.
Interested in connecting with Scott? Reach out on LinkedIn!
About Caryn Hewitt
Caryn Hewitt has been involved in hospital operations for 37 years as a Nursing Executive. Caryn brings extensive experience in several healthcare technology projects including all facets of planning and opening a new 400 bed hospital which was inclusive of many real-time location systems use cases. Caryn leads a team of consultants at CenTrak which includes several highly experienced professionals with a wide variety of healthcare expertise.
Interested in connecting with Caryn? Reach out on LinkedIn!
CenTrak empowers healthcare leaders with actionable data to increase productivity, reduce operating costs, and transform patient care via market-leading locating and sensing IoT solutions. CenTrak has helped more than 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient enterprise by implementing unique use cases using IoT-enabled location technology, including Clinical Workflow, Asset Management, Automated Nurse Call, Staff Duress/Safety, Digital Wayfinding, Environmental Monitoring, and more.
Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:
(02:16) What are smart hospitals?
(03:35) What is RTLS?
(06:13) Stakeholders in medtech
(18:47) Learn more and follow up
– [Ryan] Welcome Scott and Caryn to the IoT For All Podcast. Thanks for being here this week.
– [Scott] Thanks for having us.
– [Caryn] Thank you for having us.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. Excited for you both to be here. Good conversation I know we have planned, but first thing I wanted you to do is have you both introduce yourself and talk a little bit more about the company that you’re with. And Scott, we’ll start with you.
– [Scott] Sure. My name is Scott Hondros. I am the Vice President of Professional Services at CenTrak. We are a RTLS healthcare organization. We provide services, software, and hardware in the healthcare IoT space. My background actually is a bit diverse. I started my career early on in naval architecture and naval engineering and then moved into project management within healthcare and had the privilege of getting into the RTLS space within healthcare probably about 11 or 12 years ago now. I have a background, a graduate degree in healthcare administration and have really focused on, my career, on how to leverage technology within the healthcare space to improve efficiency, safety, and overall benefits to the organizations that we serve. So yeah, it’s an exciting conversation today.
– [Caryn] I’m Caryn Hewitt. I’m an RN by background, but spent many years in the operational world at Sanford Health in Fargo, North Dakota. I came to CenTrak and joined Scott two years ago as the senior director of our consulting services. My background goes back a long ways and many roles in the operational world including playing the role of Chief Information Officer for two years at Sanford, being a bedside nurse all the way to nursing operations and being a point person on building a brand new hospital in Fargo, which contained many of the IoT things that we will talk about today, and a big footprint and platform of RTLS enabled behaviors. My goal then and my goal now is to utilize all of this fun technology that we have to really enhance the world of our clinicians and bottom line, make a better place for our patients that we serve.
– [Ryan] And Caryn, let me ask you this. When it comes to bringing technology into a healthcare environment, people talk about smart health facilities, building smart hospitals. Just at a high level, what does that mean to you all and when you, when someone kind of talks about what that is, how would you explain that to somebody just at a high level?
– [Caryn] In my experience and looking at a lot of the organizations we’re working with now, it’s really leveraging all of these cool tools, if you will, that are out there in the environment, finding a place for them, finding the real value for the clinicians and patients, and then implementing your flavor of all of these technologies that really enhance the healthcare organization that you’re hoping to portray.
So you will see things like smart boards for patients, you will see things like mobile technology for all of the clinicians. So, it’s feeding them information real time and not expecting them to be in certain locations but enables their mobility no matter where they are. Those are just a couple of flavors, but there’s many things out in the market right now that can help you define your smart smart organization.
– [Ryan] Scott, on your side, I know one of the leading use cases, I know, from, we’ve seen is RTLS within the healthcare system, and can you just explain to our audience kind of what that means. Not just what RTLS is but more so it’s application in the healthcare system, how it’s being used, or what’s being applied to and things like that.
– [Scott] Yeah, absolutely. At its most basic sense, RTLS is or real time locating systems within healthcare are really an indoor GPS for lack of a better term. And it operates in a very similar fashion to where we are looking to understand both as an organization that partners with our clients, but if I’m a provider for one of our organizations, it can be something as simple as we attach a a unique tag onto the mobile medical equipment so that nurses and other clinicians can find the right asset when they need it to provide timely patient care. There are a lot of different use cases that really is what, you know, makes this industry exciting and some of the the flexibility we have.
We hear a lot, unfortunately, right now about staff duress and staff safety. And while healthcare is in a period of challenging times from a staffing perspective, being able to keep your staff safe is something that leadership at these organizations is very excited about and something they’re willing to invest in.
And so we provide nurses and other clinicians and really all ancillary staff with these specialized badges that have a duress button on them. All of this again ties back into what Caryn was mentioning where we’re collecting data throughout all of these interactions. So whether it’s a care provider that’s going into an exam room or a clinical asset that’s moving around, we do environmental monitoring.
So all of these use cases are providing a benefit and really trying to automate a process for the end user to make their lives easier. We, a lot of times we refer to as working at the top of your license. So if we are able to provide nurses the ability to remotely monitor refrigerators and freezers that have pharmaceutical products, that allows them to have a few minutes of their day spent back with those patients or the family members and so working at the top of their license.
So, it’s exciting. We really try, again, to look at the strategic objectives or the challenges that our organization has, and then we tailor our technologies around a use case that meets their challenge to alleviate that. So a lot of different options.
– [Ryan] Who are the key stakeholders in most of these? Obviously looking at a hospital, for instance, you have the people who own the hospital, you have the staff, but take us through who the stakeholders are, the end users even are in some regard, for these solutions and are being brought into consideration when it comes to making that decision on what do we need? What can we adopt? And what are we trying to solve for?
– [Scott] Healthcare over the last 10 years has really started investing heavily where IT used to be a department within a large organization Over the last 10 years, the budgets and the ownership of the IT organization has become more and more prominent within many of our clients. And so a lot of times the desire for a new technology that may have been seen on a podcast like this or at a large convention, a lot of times it comes in through the IT group or the CIO or the CTO. But then we get a lot of requests through individual departments. So, we may have a biomedical or a clinical engineering leader who says, you know what, we really can’t find our equipment when there’s a major recall, and we need to do that, and I heard about this tracking technology that allows for that.
And then security may say, you know what, we really need to provide something to our staff to make them safer. So the technology at, I would say, at an enterprise level, a lot of times comes in through that IT group, but the true pulling of the rope and really getting ingrained in the organization starts happening at this, I would say, more departmental level.
Caryn, would you agree with that?
– [Caryn] Yeah, I was totally agreeing and just say, the key departments Scott mentioned, like clinical engineering or your biomedical areas, you always have to have your nursing folks, your clinical folks at the table, no matter which of these use cases that we’re talking about.
One of our approaches when we work with people is to really get that governance steering committee nailed down and make sure that you have representatives from all these key areas that you’re talking about, Ryan.
– [Ryan] Absolutely. I think it’s regardless of industry, just that, having that stakeholder involvement to, probably even more so in a hospital or healthcare setting, bought in or understanding what needs to go into this and what’s going to happen prior to the even initial deployment from a pilot standpoint is super important because the goal obviously is to prove value and to scale.
But if you don’t have that buy in, it’s going to probably be a waste of time for a lot of these people. Which I guess brings up another question is when you work with companies, I’m sure that’s a big thing you advocate for them to have is make sure that the team and the organization, the decision makers are bought in as well as the end users, and they’re going to be the ones using this.
If they’re resistant to it, then it’s not going to be adopted. But how do you navigate that? Or how do you help organizations show or showcase or discuss that internally to get that buy in prior to anything even being developed?
– [Scott] Part of it starts with hiring good folks like Caryn. So a lot of the folks on our team are former clinicians or former hospital administrators or epidemiologists.
And so I myself, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I came from a very unique background into this space. So when we are able to bring a former nurse or a former hospital administrator and talk to their peers and their counterparts about what really they understand at a very unique level that their peer is going through, it provides this level of true partnership and kind of removes that vendor client type formality, and it really becomes, okay, I was a nurse. I understand the challenges of this, and I can help you navigate this. So that’s been a tremendous plus for us is bringing peers to the table.
– [Ryan] Yeah, that domain experience is invaluable for sure. For Caryn, let me, from your experience, working as an RN all the way through what you’re doing now, what are the challenges that the healthcare environment poses to, for IoT technologies when it comes to adoption? Obviously you’re talking oftentimes about large facilities, different kinds of makeups, lots of different kinds of material and textures or materials and setups from a blueprint standpoint, from a floor plan standpoint, walls and things. How do you handle that? Like how do you assess that? And what are those real challenges that the healthcare environment has that’s unique to itself when it comes to bringing in these different technologies or choosing which technologies you need to use in order to solve these problems correctly.
– [Caryn] I think you stated it. Every organization is different, no matter which one you’re working with. And starting at the top, if you don’t have that governance structure and support, you’re probably not going anywhere, but once you have that, you really need to get engaged with all of the folks, understanding their workflows, understanding who to talk to, understanding their expectations and their reasons for doing this.
We do a unique thing in our consulting world and that’s doing a kind of a deep dive assessment with our organizations and going through and understanding what really makes them tick, where they’re going from a strategic standpoint, and how we’re going to together make this very successful when they do an RTLS implementation.
We talk about all the different use cases. We talk about when they might want to do each of those use cases, if indeed that is in their road map, we talk about the dollars that they will be putting towards this and the benefits that they’re going to get from the implementation. So it’s a very involved process. And yes, we really get to the point of understanding their business.
– [Ryan] When it comes to understanding their business, I’m sure one piece of that is the existing infrastructure and systems they have within the organization, right? So how does it, how do you navigate that in, when it comes to handling legacy systems interoperability with the existing systems with the new technologies you’re bringing in, how is that evaluated? How is that thought through? How is that planned? How is that kind of approached?
– [Caryn] Again going back and understanding where they are today and where they fit with their roadmap of, their direction, they might be upgrading their wireless infrastructure, their networks, et cetera.
They might be moving to different applications that we need to consider, the interoperability, like you say. Depending on our use cases that they want to implement, we’re going to want integration with, for example, their EHR systems or their CMMS clinical engineering systems that’s feeding us information as well.
– [Scott] As I mentioned earlier with the IT investment that a lot of these organizations are making being outside of their physical towers and buildings, the IT systems that many of the organizations that we work with, it’s their largest budget line items.
And so being able to show that this isn’t a system that is simply going to be yet another application to manage. But, as Caryn alluded to, the magic is figuring out where we can automate existing manual processes in what those integration points are. And so if it’s being able to monitor the par levels in an equipment room and automatically send an order request.
Those types of things are where the technical side of the healthcare organization can say, okay, this is going to be a benefit to an existing investment we’ve already made. But it is, there, a lot of these organizations have very unique physical infrastructures or physical architecture and engineering layouts.
And so we have, in our world, we have implementation and engineers who actually go and survey the site to get a good understanding and to really understand the infrastructure placements that’s needed. As I’m sure you’re familiar with Ryan, Bluetooth is a big word in the industry right now, but within healthcare, to really do some of the locating accuracy that we need, we need room level locating. We need to be able to understand if Caryn’s in exam room one and Ryan’s in exam room two and right now there’s very few technologies that are able to do that room level locating. And at CenTrak, we’re proud to have one of those.
So it’s definitely depends on which use case you’re deploying to really what technology you need to marry that with.
– [Ryan] Let me ask you, as we wrap up here, for people out there listening and curious on how to go about the adoption process, can you just take us through what companies need to be doing or how companies can go about adopting an RTLS system for their business or healthcare environment in general, like how to assess the needs and the pain points, how to put a plan together to get to hopefully success in the pilot stage to grow and scale and then see that ROI beyond that. What are those, what does that process look like?
Or what advice do you have for companies looking to go down that path?
– [Scott] You need to really partner with an organization that is not simply trying to maybe get the lowest quote in front of you. And we have a method that we internally refer to as crawl, walk, run. And we say that a little bit tongue in cheek but with a lot of reality baked into it. When you start working with humans and patients and families, you are at a level of criticality within a healthcare system that is what we call mission critical.
And so that’s not something you really want to just go running into a thousand bed hospital and try and deploy day one. And so, if you really take a, we do an assessment to really understand where are your pain points? What is the organization, not just at the executive level, but what are your boots on the ground resources feeling within the organization are pain points and challenges to them doing their jobs effectively.
And so when we package that up, and then align it to various technology offerings that we have, that’s really where the magic happens, and we put together a strategy that’s not just the upfront initial investment, but we look at, okay, we understand an organization of this size. We have very smart people on our team who look at predictive ROI and healthcare is in a challenging time financially.
It’s a very tight time coming out of COVID. And so when we are predicting ROI, we need to be able to really feel confident with ourselves and with the client on being able to achieve that as we navigate some of these very large, complex deployment rollouts. So that would be my opinion.
– [Caryn] I was just tagging onto what you were saying there, Scott, and putting myself back in my role when I used to work at an operational hospital. The vendors such as us that have this width and breadth and lots of experience of being out there and seeing these systems are very valuable. And I think that’s probably what I’m asked all the time is what did you do or what was your best practice and how does this really work in the real world environment.
I would partner with someone like that, that can help you navigate these waters and create a plan that is going to be what your organization wants at the end of the day.
– [Ryan] I really appreciate you both to taking the time to do this because we’ve seen a lot of popularity in healthcare related content when it comes to how IoT technologies are being applied in the healthcare setting, so to be able to dive in further about it’s true applications and how companies or hospitals themselves are seeing or healthcare facilities are seeing success with the adoption of these smart technologies. Not just with the safety side, as you mentioned, but also the medical device tracking and being able to run a hospital even more efficiently is fantastic.
For our audience out there who wants to learn more, wants to dive in further, follow up, ask any questions, what’s the best way for them to do that or reach out and connect.
– [Scott] Yeah. So they can go to centrak.com. c e n t r a k dot com. It’s a fantastic website. It has a lot of the methodologies Caryn and I have spoke about today, but it also shares some of the use cases and technology.
As I mentioned at the beginning, we have a wide breadth of software, hardware, and professional services. So, feel free to go on the website and drop us a note.
– [Ryan] Scott, Caryn, thank you so much for taking the time. Really appreciate it and excited to get this out to our audience.
– [Caryn] Thank you.
– [Scott] Great fun. Thank you.