Incorporating RTLS-Based Spatiotemporal Information in Studying Physical Activities of Clinical Staff

Annu Int Conf IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2021 Nov:2021:2386-2391. doi: 10.1109/EMBC46164.2021.9630597.


Clinicians and staff who work in intense hospital settings such as the emergency department (ED) are under an extended amount of mental and physical pressure every day. They may spend hours in active physical pressure to serve patients with severe injuries or stay in front of a computer to review patients' clinical history and update the patients' electronic health records (EHR). Nurses on the other hand may stay for multiple consecutive days of 9-12 working hours. The amount of pressure is so much that they usually end up taking days off to recover the lost energy. Both of these extreme cases of low and high physical activities are shown to affect the physical and mental health of clinicians and may even lead to fatigue and burnout.In this study Real-Time location systems (RTLS) are used for the first time, to study the amount of physical activity exerted by clinicians. RTLS systems have traditionally been used in hospital settings for locating staff and equipment, whereas our proposed method combines both time and location information together to estimate the duration, length, and speed of movements within hospital wards such as the ED. It is also our first step towards utilizing non-wearable devices to measure sedentary behavior inside the ED. This information helps to assess the workload on the care team and identify means to reduce the risk of performance compromise, fatigue, and burnout.We used one year worth of raw RFID data that covers movement records of 38 physicians, 13 residents, 163 nurses, 33 staff in the ED. We defined a walking path as the continuous sequences of movements and stops and identified separate walking paths for each individual on each day. Walking duration, distance, and speed, along with the number of steps and the duration of sedentary behavior, are then estimated for each walking path. We compared our results to the values reported in the literature and showed despite the low spatial resolution of RTLS, our non-invasive estimations are closely comparable to the ones measured by Fitbit or other wearable pedometers.Clinical Relevance- Adequate assessment of workload in a dynamic care delivery space plays an important role in ensuring safe and optimal care delivery [7]. Systems capable of measuring physical activities on a continuous basis during daily work can provide precious information for a variety of purposes including automated assessment of sedentary behaviors and early detection of work pressure. Such systems could help facilitate targeted changes in the number of staff, duration of their working shifts leading to a safer and healthier environment for both clinicians and patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Computer Systems
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Walking*