How RTLS Mobile Duress Tech Protects Healthcare Workers

Real-time location systems (RTLS) provide staff duress solutions that prevent violent threats from escalating to dangerous events.

As healthcare workers continue to fight on the frontlines of the pandemic, providing critical care to their communities, they are also facing an unprecedented increase in workplace violence. While violence against healthcare workers has been a growing concern long before the pandemic, with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealing that healthcare professionals are five times more likely to experience violence than staffers in other industries, the pandemic has only exacerbated the issue.

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

To better protect and support staff members, real-time location systems (RTLS) provide cost-effective mobile duress solutions that prevent violent threats from escalating to dangerous events, all with the simple 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 signal for help and have peace of mind knowing a security team member is on the way to their precise location.

Facility-Wide Benefits of Adopting Real-Time Duress Technology

As hospitals and other healthcare facilities continue to recuperate from the last eighteen months of COVID-19 in tandem with facing a new influx of patients, there has never been a greater need for hospital security directors and leadership to consider how they can support their team, ensure a safe workplace environment, and enable 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 accessed button on RTLS-enabled staff badges. The subtlety and proximity of the button are crucial for staff members under duress.

Even if a security guard is nearby, physically signaling 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 flag the alert for the closest security guard to quickly provide assistance. Using the real-time data, security personnel can promptly arrive at the right place at the right time, ensuring healthcare professionals always have backup support and safety in their work environment.

How RTLS Safety Solutions Work

Each RTLS-enabled badge is equipped with wireless call functionality that is initiated with a simple press of a button on the device. The emergency call immediately notifies the appropriate personnel via their computer workstations, email, SMS messages, display monitors, VoIP phone messages, security dispatchers, and alarm buzzers, and shares the exact location of the emergency. By incorporating an accurate RTLS solution, team members are guaranteed that their duress alert is received promptly 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 ongoing real-time location updates to assist security personnel. Even if a healthcare professional moves during a duress situation, responding team members have ongoing visibility into the new location and not just the site where the alert originated. For even greater location data insights, security directors can consider RTLS duress solutions that offer clinical-grade locating (CGL), which provides the most accurate and precise locating for a person or an asset.

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

Ensuring the Success of an RTLS-Based Duress Solution

While RTLS have consistently proven to increase safety and morale in hospitals, the staff may initially dismiss the technology as another administrative protocol. At a Louisiana Level 1 Trauma hospital, this was the case. Once the team experienced daily use of the duress 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 staff duress solution, the security director and leadership hoped response times would improve as staff activated emergency alerts to identify their location during any dangerous situations.

This proved correct as staff across the healthcare facility noted that they felt safer at work and experienced rapid assistance from security, which “solidified to the entire team that the RTLS duress solutions work.” Using the comprehensive analytics collected by their RTLS, leadership reviewed the system’s real-time operations data and gained insights on the hospital’s significant reduction in assaults and increase in overall security response time.

Selecting the Right Safety Solution for Your Healthcare Facility

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

When seeking an RTLS partner, consider one with a comprehensive suite of solutions. This approach makes expanding the system to other aspects of healthcare operations and facilities easier in the future. For many healthcare facilities, staff duress or asset management often initiates the introduction to RTLS.

As a facility’s leadership and team utilize the benefits of the RTLS or see the meaningful return on investment, the facility is often inspired to pursue additional solutions within the RTLS suite, like nurse call automation, hand hygiene compliance monitoring, infant protection, and more. An early investment in the right strategic partner allows leadership to develop the existing system infrastructure further.

As violence against healthcare workers continues to rise, investing in an RTLS can combat those increases and make healthcare professionals safer. An easy-to-use button available on their badges provides unprecedented peace of mind should a normal day at work turn into an emergency situation. Our healthcare workers are truly essential, and they deserve the best protection we can provide.


Nick Adriance is the global product manager for safety solutions at CenTrak, which offers locating, sensing and security solutions for the healthcare industry. This article originally appeared on SSI sister site Campus Safety.

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