The Care Group Oxford Senior Care facility is using an RFID and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) system which tracks personnel, visitors, and residents.
The system, supplied by technology company Vantage, provides both real-time and historical data indicating where individuals are located onsite, as well as with whom they share those spaces, thereby enabling the prevention of — or fast response to — COVID-19 infections.
Since the system was taken live in December 2020, the facility has not experienced a single positive COVID-19 result from a worker or visitor, says Gavin McIntosh, The Care Group’s VP of operations and finance.
That is noteworthy, McIntosh says, since Oxford Senior Care is the only one of TCG’s homes in the Vancouver area that has not had a resident test positive for the coronavirus. This may be due to good luck, good policies and screenings, he speculates, as well as to the technology’s benefits.
The system currently tracks Oxford Senior Care’s approximately 50 workers, all of whom volunteered to participate in the pilot. The workers, as well as visitors, utilize Vantage’s RFID- and BLE-enabled fob, which they present to a near field communications (NFC) reader located at the entrance, after which their movements are tracked inside the building and throughout public rooms, with BLE gateways deployed on walls and plugged into outlets.
Oxford Senior Care provides long-term care, assisted living and independent living services to more than 800 residents at its two-story Abbotsford building. This was the second such facility to pilot the Vantage system, the company reports, following another senior establishment in New York. The solution for preventing COVID-19 transmissions, represents a pivot in business focus for Vantage, the company indicates.
Vantage is based in British Columbia, with an office in Colorado. The company spun off from Whitewater West to bring technology to the amusement- and water-park industry, and it continues to do so, according to Aaron Mendelson, Vantage’s customer success and product innovation director.
The initial effort was intended to deliver a digital experience for park guests, as well as intelligence for park management. With the company’s solution in place, visitors acquire a wristband with BLE and NFC technology designed by Vantage and built by a third-party manufacturer.
The NFC technology could be used at a kiosk where the wristband was acquired, Mendelson explains, as well as for access control at specific gates or rides. Users could then employ the wristband to be directed to the shortest queues and earn rewards for waiting for rides. The solution is now in use at multiple sites, he says, including the Island H20 Live! water park in Kissimmee, Fla. Other deployments are under way but have been delayed by the pandemic.
Data regarding the locations of individuals could be received by a facility’s managers, who could then identify any trends and ascertain which residents might require more encouragement to leave their rooms. However, he adds, once the pandemic began, “We had a lot of conversations around safety in senior-living facilities.”
When workers arrive onsite, they first proceed to the kiosk, which has a touch screen and an NFC reader. They then tap their fob near the reader, as instructed on the screen. The reader captures the fob’s ID number, linked to the individual’s information, and forwards the read data to the central server hosted by Vantage, where the company’s software manages that data.
The software prompts the kiosk’s touch screen to present a series of questions: “Are you experiencing sneezing, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, vomiting or diarrhea?” “Have you been outside the country or in a facility with COVID-19 cases in the last 14 days?” And “Have you been in close contact with a case of COVID-19 in the last 14 days?”
If all the questions are answered with “no,” the screen displays the message “Enjoy your day at The Oxford.” If any questions yield “yes” responses, however, the message “Do Not Proceed” is displayed. An infrared temperature sensor could then take the individual’s temperature and confirm that he or she is not running a fever, though Oxford Senior Care has not yet deployed this feature.
The technology can transmit a push notification to Oxford Senior Care’s management if anyone fails to respond to the questions in such a way that would clear them to enter. Once approved, an individual undergoes the usual process of entering the facility with an ID badge, with his or her fob tracked by the BLE beacon radio.
Non-employees can receive a temporary fob by providing their name and other details, such as who they are visiting, so that the fob ID can be then linked to that person. They can then be tracked throughout their visit. Before leaving, they would need to check out and leave the fob behind.
The collected data offers both real-time and historical value, Mendelson says, since users can view when a specific incident occurs in real time, such as an unacceptable number of individuals congregating in a single room. The historical data, McIntosh says, is Oxford Senior Care’s priority. The company’s management creates a spreadsheet to view the information approximately once a week, enabling them to identify where individuals have been or if any workers might need to change their movement patterns.
In the long term, the technology is intended to offer further value when tracking residents and workers, by monitoring the health and wellness of residents based on their movements and locations. It could also provide automatic identification in a mustering situation, he adds, if an emergency evacuation were required and all individuals needed to be accounted for.