How RTLS Mobile Duress Technology Protects Healthcare Workers

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Real-time location systems (RTLS) provide cost-effective personnel restraint solutions that prevent violent threats from escalating into dangerous events.

As healthcare workers continue to fight on the front lines of the pandemic, providing critical care to their communities, they are also facing an unprecedented increase in workplace violence. While violence against healthcare workers was a growing concern long before the pandemic, data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealing that healthcare professionals are five times more likely to be victims of violence than staff in other sectors, the pandemic has only exacerbated the problem.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites that sources of violence for healthcare personnel can range from patients and visitors to facility intruders, and even include co-workers. As tensions rise within hospitals and healthcare facilities due to growing staff shortages and evolving visitation restrictions, 20% of registered nurses in the United States have reported an increase in workplace violence in a recent study.

To better protect and support staff members, Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS) provide cost-effective mobile restraint solutions that prevent violent threats from turning into dangerous events, all at the click of a button. These systems provide accurate real-time location information and staff duress buttons are located directly on staff badges, allowing healthcare professionals to easily request assistance and have peace of mind knowing that a member of the security team is en route to their exact location.

Institution-wide benefits of adopting real-time restraint technology

As hospitals and other healthcare facilities continue to recover from the past eighteen months of COVID-19 alongside a new influx of patients, there has never been a greater need for hospital safety directors and leaders to reflect how they can support their team, ensure a safe working environment and allow their staff to focus on patient care.

The technology behind RTLS allows staff members to subtly send panic alerts to the security team using an easily accessible button on RTLS-enabled staff badges. The subtlety and proximity of the button are crucial for coworkers under duress. Even if a security guard is nearby, physically asking for help can potentially escalate a violent encounter.

Comparatively, the RTLS-based security system allows healthcare workers to send their real-time location directly to the facility’s security team, who will then report the alert to the nearest security guard to provide assistance quickly. With real-time data, security personnel can quickly arrive at the right place at the right time, ensuring healthcare professionals are always supported and safe in their working environment.

How RTLS Security Solutions Work

Each RTLS-enabled badge is equipped with wireless calling functionality that is initiated with the press of a button on the device. Emergency Call immediately notifies appropriate personnel via their computer workstations, email, SMS messages, display monitors, VoIP phone messages, security dispatchers and buzzers, and shares the exact location of the emergency. By incorporating an accurate RTLS solution, team members are assured that their duress alert is received quickly and addressed immediately.

Following an emergency notification, location visibility increases response times to prevent staff injury, especially in high-risk areas such as the emergency department and behavioral health units. The system then provides rapid and continuous real-time location updates to assist security personnel. Even if a healthcare professional moves during a stressful situation, response team members have continuous visibility of the new location, not just the site from which the alert originated. For even more location data insights, security managers can consider RTLS duress solutions that offer clinical-grade location (CGL), which provides the most accurate and accurate location for a person or active.

To further improve security and workflow, RTLS technology can integrate with traditional security systems, access control, mass notification systems and other healthcare technologies such as nurse call. Facilities and security teams can configure devices to any required specification with various options for alert notifications, sounds, and escalation paths. Security directors and management can select the protocol that best suits the personnel and facility to maximize security.

Ensuring the success of an RTLS-based constraint solution

Although RTLS has consistently proven to increase safety and morale in hospitals, staff may initially dismiss the technology as just another administrative protocol. In a Level 1 trauma hospital in Louisiana, it was. Once the team experienced daily use of the restraint solution and the peace of mind it provides, everything changed.

Prior to using the RTLS, the Louisiana hospital experienced multiple active shooters and an increase in workplace violence. By integrating a personnel restraint solution, the security director and management hoped that response times would improve as personnel activated emergency alerts to identify their location during dangerous situations. This turned out to be correct as staff at the healthcare facility noted that they felt safer at work and received prompt assistance from security, which “confirmed to the entire team that RTLS constraint solutions work”. Using the comprehensive analytics collected by their RTLS, management reviewed the real-time operating data of the system and gained insights into the significant reduction in hospital assaults and increased response time from overall security.

Choosing the Right Security Solution for Your Healthcare Facility

While staff members may initially resist or reject RTLS technology, the system’s capabilities to create a safe and efficient environment for staff are a game-changer. Once Louisiana hospital staff experienced the benefits, they fully embraced the technology. Now, due to popular demand from staff, the hospital plans to expand the system across its entire campus.

When looking for an RTLS partner, consider one with a full suite of solutions. This approach makes it easy to expand the system to other aspects of healthcare operations and facilities in the future. For many healthcare facilities, staff constraint or asset management often initiates the introduction of RTLS. As a facility’s management and team utilize the benefits of RTLS or see the significant return on investment, the facility is often inspired to seek additional solutions within the RTLS suite, such as the nurse call automation, hand hygiene compliance monitoring, infant protection, and more. Early investment in the right strategic partner enables management to further develop the existing system infrastructure.

As violence against healthcare workers continues to rise, investing in an RTLS can combat these increases and make healthcare workers safer. An easy-to-use button available on their badges provides unprecedented peace of mind if a normal workday turns into an emergency.

Our healthcare workers are truly essential and they deserve the best protection we can give them.


Nick Adriance is the Global Product Manager for Security Solutions at CenTrak, which provides location, detection and security solutions for the healthcare industry. CenTrak has helped over 2,000 healthcare organizations around the world build a safer, more efficient business. For more information, visit www.centrak.com.

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