Using RTLS for Dynamic Room Assignment in your Clinic

Jeanne Kraimer




The focus of healthcare is changing, and the shift has only been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than ever, care is human-centered: ensuring an experience for both caregivers and patients that is safe, efficient and effective.

With this shift, outpatient facilities are examining how patients move through the clinic and how adjustments to processes, technology and design can create lasting human-centered improvements. One of the greatest areas for potential improvement is the way exam rooms are assigned for patient care.

Assigning Patients to Exam Rooms: The Traditional Model

Traditionally, providers are assigned two or more exam rooms where they see their patients throughout the day. 

At first glance, this approach makes sense, but it actually places limitations on provider capacity and schedules. Assigning a set amount of exam rooms to each provider restricts the number of providers who can practice in a given space. This can result in unnecessary bottlenecks for more efficient providers and missed opportunities to increase patient access.

How Dynamic Room Assignment Works

A dynamic room assignment model provides a solution for these missed opportunities by eliminating the “physician-owned” exam room. Instead, patients and physicians are assigned to the first-available room in a given care area. 

For dynamic room assignment to work, caregivers need clear visibility to room status so they can tell which rooms are available or occupied. That’s where real-time locating system (RTLS) technology comes in.

RTLS software provides a bird’s-eye view of the clinic floor plan. It displays the location of badged patients and providers throughout the clinic. Exam rooms are color-coded to display the status of the room—whether it is ready for patient care, occupied, needs disinfection or is out of use. Registration staff can consult the RTLS software to determine whichexam rooms are available the moment the patient arrives. Providers and their staff also know at a glance where their patients are and when they are ready to be seen.



The Benefits of Dynamic Room Assignment 

Dynamic room assignment allows for a fluid allocation of resources, which creates several efficiencies: 

  • Better exam room utilization
  • Reduced patient wait times
  • Flexibility to deal with unexpected patient emergencies and walk-ins;

In some cases, clinics have used the extra capacity to add additional physicians or create areas in the schedule for specialist visits.

Real World Results: Using RTLS for Dynamic Room Assignment

Many Midmark RTLS customers use RTLS for dynamic room assignment in their clinics, with remarkable results: 

  • The University of Minnesota Health Clinics and Surgery Center improved exam room utilization by 67 percent and was able to see the same number of patients in a space 40 percent smaller than their previous location, significantly decreasing the facility’s footprint and construction costs. 
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute saw a 10% increase in capacity without increasing the number of exam rooms. By implementing workflow changes based on RTLS data, they were able to add the equivalent of two rooms to each floor, simply by using existing real estate more efficiently.

To learn more about dynamic room assignment and other RTLS-powered workflow improvements, download our eBook Outpatient Workflow Design Trends: Transformations Fueled by Technology.