How RFID Tracking Helps Hospitals and Patients

RFID Uses In MedicineRFID tracking systems for hospitals, along with inventory management software can be used to keep track of assets, medications, personnel and patients. The systems are currently being used to monitor workflow and manage inventories. Hospitals are just one example we use to illustrate how RFID tracking is being used. Similar concepts apply to automotive, pharmaceutical, industrial, warehousing and dozens of other industries. Theme parks like Disney and Universal are now using RFID for practically everything from accessing your hotel room door, entering the park, getting ‘head of the line’ (e.g., Fast Pass) access to rides and for paying for meals and souvenirs in the park. More notably, RFID allows families and groups to keep track of one another or re-uniting separated children and parents.

Some hospitals, such as St. Clair in Pittsburg, are using the systems to ensure that patients get the right medications. The nurses carry a smart tablet equipped with a reader / scanner to verify the patient’s identification and the doctor’s orders for medications before dispensing the drugs. Obviously, this helps to ensure that there are fewer errors. Ms. Suzanne Smiley at RFID Insider recently published an article which includes examples on tracking mundane items such as laundry, to patient care items like bandages, gloves and vials, to expensive equipment including beds and monitors. Read the full article here:  “7 Things You Can Track in Hospitals Using RFID“.

Hospitals, clinics and companies providing medical equipment for home use can use RFID tagging to help prevent fraud. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently announced that they planned to implement unannounced site visits as a measure against fraudulent billing practices. Simple adhesive backed tags cost around $0.25 each, and this price drops to the pennies apiece when buying in bulk.

RFID Adhesive LabelsFor example, you can purchase a roll of 100 3 inch X 1 inch UHF RFID Adhesive Tag Labels for about $27 on Amazon.

 

Some equipment providers have already started using radio frequency ID tags to ensure that they are prepared for these surprise visits. The advantages include being able to retrieve records, match equipment to patients and quickly supply the information necessary for an unannounced audit.

The tags can also be used to monitor the comings and goings of nurses and other personnel. The benefits may include increased efficiency and less theft. In general, hospital tracking software lowers costs and increases productivity.

RFID KeyfobThe most common type is a small key-fob which can be easily clipped to badges, access cards and of course, keys. These come in an assortment of colors (red, black, green, blue) and can be purchased cheaply in bags of 100 for about $15.00 (e.g., 125KHz RFID Proximity ID Card Token Tag Keyfobs )

Other benefits of RFID hospital tracking software has to do with improved patient care and safety. In addition to the bedside system mentioned above, the technology can also be used to track and monitor sponges, gauze and towels in the operating room.

One of the most common accidents during surgical procedures occurs when the wound is closed before all foreign objects are removed from the patient. Using high frequency tags and electronic readers, the objects are counted before the procedure and again when the surgeon is about to close. CBS News reported that in the 8 year period between 2005 and 2013, nearly 800 surgical tools were left in patients following hospital procedures.

As the items move into and out of the patient, the counts are automatically reconciled. So, there is no extra time involved. A handheld wand is used to locate items when the count is not correct.

Another benefit is in the area of identification or name tags. In areas where a “swipe” is necessary to gain entrance, the high frequency radio tags can be used instead. As an employee walks by, the tag is read. The lock is disengaged and the staff can enter without touching the reader or removing the tag from its location. This is an important benefit for sterile environments.

If you are about to install hospital tracking software, making use of RFID technology is a good idea. It is expected to take the place of bar codes and similar systems in the near future.

To learn more about RFID and its uses, we can recommend a few books available through Amazon:
RFID For Dummies ($23.52 – paperback)
Getting Started with RFID: Identify Objects in the Physical World with Arduino ($5.99 – paperback)
RFID in the Supply Chain ($19.97 – hardback)
RFID: Applications, Security, and Privacy ($31.91 – hardback)

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