The idea of a device that can track a person’s every move may call forth images from George Orwell’s “1984,” but in practice a tracking system installed at Yale-New Haven Hospital allows administrators to locate equipment, staff and patients throughout the building as part of an effort to streamline hospital operations.

The active-RFID tracking system, installed by a company called Radianse, has improved patient flow and decreased the amount of equipment stolen from the hospital since its installation in the spring, said Radianse Vice President of Sales and Marketing John Pantano. He said the system increases efficiency because it allows a staff to locate equipment and employees in real time.

According to Pantano, tags placed on machinery and personnel send out signals that are picked up by receivers and relayed to computer stations.

“It’s kind of like GPS, but it works indoors,” Pantano said.

Yale-New Haven has nearly 6,000 employees and treats approximately 47,000 patients each year, making organization a challenging necessity.

“We needed a breadth of applications, along with a simple solution to install and expand,” Joe Lederer, director of perioperative support systems, said in a Radianse press release.

In addition to the organizational benefits, these systems have financial benefits as well. Although tracking systems carry a hefty price tag, hospitals usually recoup the money because they have fewer lost pieces of equipment and therefore are not forced to rent or buy more. Tracking systems also help cut down time delays in surgery by ensuring the correct equipment and people are in the right place at the right time, Pantano said.

Barry Nalebuff, a professor of business strategy at the Yale School of Management, said devices similar to the active-RFID tracking system are being applied to many different industries. He said tracking devices have been installed in schools to make sure students are going to class, in factories to replace time clocks, and even in taxicabs so the company always sends their closest car to pick up a customer.

Nalebuff said, in the future, tracking systems are likely to become more present in daily life.

The system has been so successful, the hospital is planning to add patient tracking in the near future. This would speed up the operating process, which is better for patients and easier for staff, Pantano said.