As an industry, healthcare is increasingly investing in RFID technology. So much so that recent market studies suggest that RFID technology will grow exponentially in the industry by 2021. One of the reasons RFID is expanding significantly in the industry is the number of applications that can benefit.
In hospitals equipped with the technology, RFID takes many forms - from tracking surgical tools to tracking patients and healthcare workers.
Here are seven common RFID applications deployed in hospitals around the world.
Using RFID to track inventory can be done with almost any type of item, but the implementation of RFID systems is particularly challenging when tracking liquid-filled assets. RFID tags with the ability to track these assets are on the rise, largely because of demand from the pharmaceutical industry.
The hospital's supply of medicines is increasing and changing, and must be tracked to keep patients on hand. A typical inventory tracking solution (as in many industries) involves manual counting and barcoding, which takes time to complete the staff. The use of RFID reduces the time spent on counting, making it possible to count drugs more frequently, ensuring accurate data and the correct type and quantity of drugs.
During the counting process, the RFID tags in each bottle or box or on each box can be read with a handheld reader, or the inventory can be carried out continuously through a fixed reader and shelf antenna.
Some hospitals and drug manufacturers also use RFID tags for authentication. Counterfeiting is on the rise as prescription drugs and life-saving drugs often carry high costs; As a result, many companies choose to use RFID as an authentication or anti-counterfeiting resource.
This is done by placing RFID tags on or inside medicine bottles or boxes and encrypting specific information so that hospitals and pharmacies can verify that the medicines they sell are genuine. Tamper-proof RFID tags are also used in these applications to ensure quality.
Patient and employee tracking
Currently, hospitals are using passive RFID technology and active RFID instances to track patients and staff throughout the hospital.
There are three main reasons for hospitals to equip PATIENTS and employees with RFID tags:
1. Verify patient information
2. Reduce wait times
3. Look for patients
Passive RFID systems are commonly used to maintain and verify patient records on wristbands. These RFID bracelets carry patient information, which is stored on the tag's chip or associated with the tag's ID through a database. The information encoded on the wristband label is the best way to identify the patient because it can help by ensuring that the patient is not given the wrong medicine or sent to the wrong area of the hospital in an emergency.
As a result of the accident, the patient's files were transferred, resulting in the loss of life. Important information encoded in the wristband, such as "nut allergy" or "DOB 7/29/80", may be vital to a patient's life.
Active RFID is used in hospitals in several different ways, but is mainly used in applications that involve tracking employees and patients.
More recently, hospitals have used active RFID in real-time positioning systems (RTLS) to identify problems in their workflows, mainly to move patients in and out more quickly and efficiently. In these cases, both the patient and the medical staff have RTLS badges, and the system identifies their working hours in certain areas and reports this data to the management team.
RTLS is also implemented to track newborn babies. In the United States alone, 135 babies were stolen from medical institutions between 1965 and May 2017, according to the study. Babies are not only stolen from random locations in facilities, but also from trusted areas such as mothers' rooms, nurseries and paediatric halls.
To reduce the risk of kidnapping, the hospital has placed RTLS tags on all the babies' legs to monitor and track each child. If the child ventures near the exit door, an alarm will sound and the door will be locked. In addition, if the label is removed from the child, a different alarm will be issued immediately indicating the child's location.
Tool tracking with sterilization and autoclave/recyclable asset tracking
Surgical tools such as scalpels, scissors, clips and retractors are needed daily. Therefore, the equipment must always be on hands, clean, disinfected and ready for use. Unfortunately, without tracking these tools, not having the right surgical equipment on hand is the least dangerous situation.
Annual studies show that surgical instruments in hospitals are found to be carrying previously used bacteria, as a result of not sterilizing them or not properly sterilizing them. Not only can you use RFID tags to track these items, you can also ensure that each tool is sterilized before use - a properly implemented system can clarify the sterilization method of individual tools.
Metal RFID tags embedded or affixed to surgical equipment can be used to track inventory and ensure that they go through the autoclavimetric sterilization process. Several autoclave sterilizers using different sterilization methods exist. By tracking each tool individually, hospitals can ensure that all tools are passed through the appropriate autoclave specified by the manufacturer. It is worth noting that not all RFID tags survive autoclaving. Therefore, choosing equipment that ensures that all equipment is properly clean and sterile is key.
Stock tracking/out of stock
Items such as gauze, disposable test papers, glove boxes and plastic vials are important disposable items in the hospital and must be kept on hand. Because they are one-time and low cost, it is not feasible to track them using high-cost RFID tags.
RFID inlets provide cost-effective inventory solutions for these disposable items, which can be stored in stock rooms, shelf units or RFD-equipped vending machines.
When tracking disposable items, some hospitals prefer to keep records of staff who use them to ensure the correct use of stock and to reduce careless waste or theft.
In this case, the tracker who USES the RFID tag on the badge can be used in conjunction with the inventory tracking application. Rfid-enabled vending machines and other similar devices can be set up to require rFid-equipped badges to be read before releasing the manifest, and the system can be configured for each employee to send daily or monthly reports on the manifest.
Hospital beds and other portable test machines are high value items in hospitals that are occasionally lost or misplaced. In hospitals, tracking these items is crucial because replacement costs are high. In addition, some of these assets are not yet available and will take some time to replace. Using RFID systems is an ideal way to track these assets within a building.
Because of the expensive and critical nature of these assets, if RFID systems are deployed, hospitals often use active RFID real-time positioning systems (RTLS) to keep track of their location. Some hospitals implement systems to read only certain areas or rooms, while others set up their systems to cover entire corridors or floors.
Access control/people tracking
Safety is another aspect of tracking hospital use, which is often used to restrict access to certain rooms or areas to prevent people from wandering around the hospital.
For this type of system, the worker must wave or tap the RFID-enabled badge in front of the door reader to gain access. This not only prevents unauthorized access to restricted areas, but also provides a degree of security for patients, medicines and medical equipment to prevent theft or damage.
Towels, blankets and sheets are just a few examples of the linen and textiles used in almost every hospital room. All of these items must be cleaned and disinfected for use before the next patient is admitted. An effective way to track these items and ensure they are sterile is to use a system with RFID laundry tags.