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Is RFID safe for health?

Is RFID safe for health

HIPAA Compliant Healthcare Software Development Services

Technology has enabled a lot of advances in the modern era. It has impacted a variety of industries such as manufacturing, automotive, and healthcare. RFID technology has had a great impact on the healthcare industry. It has allowed for the streamlining of different processes in healthcare. 

There is also a growing concern over the safety of the use of RFID in the healthcare sector. It uses electromagnetic waves which has been a cause of concern over the years. However, concerns regarding the use of RFID in healthcare needs to be evaluated with how much of a negative impact it can have on an individual. This may or may not be as trivial as some may expect it to be.

Here is an informative post on RFID technology and its safety on people’s health.

About RFID technology

RFID (Radio frequency identification) is a wireless communication method that uses radio waves to identify and track objects that could be both living and non-living things. RFID system consists of three main components, which are the transponder, transceiver, and scanning antenna. The antenna and transceiver together is called an RFID reader. RFID readers are either fixed or portable handheld devices. It is based on the context of the application of RFID technology.

An RFID tag contains the transponder. The read range of the RFID tag depends on various factors including the RFID tag and reader types, frequency, and interference in the environment and from nearby RFID tags and readers. Tag with a stronger power source typically has a longer read range.

Health risks associated with RFID and radio waves

Many people have the question as to whether EMI generated by mobile phones, power lines, WLANs, RFID readers, and other wireless equipment is harmful for human health. Various scientific studies and World Health Organization’s (WHO) research reveals that EMF exposure below internationally recommended limits have not shown any harmful health effects. However, to ensure a benchmark for compliance, EPC Global recommends sticking to the human exposure limits for EMF as outlined by the International Consortium on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) and WHO.

Therefore, there won’t be any detrimental health issues after exposure to RFID tags for an extended period. Regular exposure to RFID technology based solutions is safe for your health.

Is RFID safe for health?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not identified any adverse effects associated with RFID technology [1]. However, there is a growing concern on the potential dangers of electromagnetic interference (EMI) to electronic medical equipment from radio frequency transmitters including RFID. EMI is a degradation of the performance of these medical equipment due to electromagnetic disturbance.

Information on the use of RFID for healthcare professionals

Due to the extensive use of RFID, it is important to identify its potential for interference with pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), and other electronic healthcare equipment.

Physicians should be well-versed in the use of RFID systems. If any patient encounters an issue with the use of these devices, the physician should ask the below questions to determine if RFID would have been a cause:

  • When did the episode occur?
  • Where did it occur?
  • What was the patient doing at the time?
  • Did the problem resolve when the patient moved to a different place?

If a physician suspects that RFID is a factor, he should report the malfunction of the device to the relevant authorities.

FDA actions

The FDA has taken necessary procedures to study the RFID’s effects on medical equipment including the following:

  • Collaborating with manufacturers to test healthcare devices for adverse effects from RFID. It also encourages these manufacturers to consider RFID interference when developing new equipment.
  • Working with RFID technology to understand the power levels and frequencies of RFID used in different locations, and how to mitigate EMI with ICDs and pacemakers.
  • Working in collaboration with the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) to find a way to test healthcare devices for their vulnerability to EMI from RFID solutions.
  • Reviewing the development of RFID standards to better identify RFID’s effect on medical equipment and to mitigate potential EMI.

Potential RFID privacy issues

RFID involves the exchange of data from an object to another system for processing. This data helps identify an individual or item directly. Hence, this data needs to be carefully handled in order to comply with regulatory requirements. It also enables the person’s right to privacy.

Safety issues and related regulations

RFID-enabled devices use electric power to function and radiate energy, especially during the exchange of data in tags. Therefore, it is vital that RFID technology enabled devices operate safely and in accordance with health and safety regulations. It is also important to ensure that there is no negative impact on the surrounding environment with the use of RFID solutions.

Here are the steps to ensure that the installed RFID system is safe:

  • All installed hardware should work according to manufacturer’s specifications and guidelines.
  • Hardware using electric power should be grounded.
  • Users must follow safety regulations and requirements for the location.

Standards related to operation of wireless technologies

Following are the regulations and standards with regard to the operation of wireless and electric technologies:

FCC – Part 15.247-i

Exposure limits to radio frequency energy levels.

ICNIRP

The International Consortium on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP). It is allied to WHO.

It has identified that frequencies under 10 MHz can have an impact on the central nervous system because of the current flow in the human body. On the other hand, frequencies above 100 kHz can have a warming effect on the body.

IEC-EX

The International Electrotechnical Commission sets standards for equipment operating in Explosive Environment.

HERO

Hazards of Electromagnetic Radiation to Ordnance

Data interception standards and issues

Here are the data interception standards and problems.

  • FCC – Part 15.247-i
  • ICNIRP

Below are the data interception issues:

  • Data and identity theft: It can be used for personal benefits, financial theft, or to tarnish an individual’s personal or professional life.
  • Data replication: It is used for counterfeiting of products.
  • Data change: It involves changing identification of items, re-pricing items, changing audit data that is housed on the tag, and changing expiration dates of medicines.

Why is it important to protect data that can identify a person?

Protecting data that can identify an individual is via when deploying RFID technology. Here are the reasons for it:

  • Privacy laws require to protect this data.
  • Possible theft of an individual’s identity.
  • Possibility of the misuse and theft of data such as unauthorized use of credit card information and funds, unauthorized access to various information, and unauthorized access to buildings.

How does RFID solutions improve patient safety and hospital workflow?

RFID technology is very much in use in the healthcare industry. Many hospitals get in touch with an RFID solutions provider to deploy this technology in their systems. RFID solutions help improve patient safety and hospital workflow. Here is how it happens:

  • It provides real-time visibility and control over patient distribution, occupancy, and space availability.
  • It automated laborious activities such as bed availability checking and discharge details. It improves workflow efficiency due to the chances of less human errors and delays.
  • RFID tagging enables the tracking of medical equipment and pharmaceutical items.
  • It provides instantaneous stock details to streamline inventory management process.

Benefits of RFID

Here are the advantages of implementing RFID in a healthcare setting.

  • It enhances patient safety.
  • It enhances equipment tracking.
  • It provides automatic and accurate inventory management.
  • It helps locate critical assets quickly, especially during an emergency.
  • It lowers operating expenses.

How does RFID work?

RFID technology uses electromagnetic waves to identify objects. RFID tags transmit data to RFID readers, which can be embedded or handheld devices. Typical examples of data transmitted include inventory numbers that can be used to track inventory items. 

There are two types of RFID tags. They are as follows:

  • Active RFID

Active RFID tags cost more than passive RFID tags. However, they offer more versatility and benefits in terms of usage. Active RFID tags work on batteries and can be read at a range of over 100 meters. They also provide real-time data with an accuracy of one meter or less. 

  • Passive RFID

Passive RFID tags do not have their own power source. Therefore, these types of tags are less costly. A fixed or handheld RFID reader can typically read more than 1000 passive RFID tags per second at a range of up to 10 meters. These tags are perfect to quickly locate a large amount of medical devices in a healthcare facility. Passive RFIDs do not provide real-time information unless they pass through a fixed reader gateway, in which case they can be updated. Another way that they provide real-time data is when scanned with a handheld reader.

Conclusion

RFID technology is deemed to be safe for people to use, as long as regulations and compliance standards are followed. When used in the recommended manner, RFID can prove to be highly beneficial to streamline many processes not only in healthcare, but across a large number of industries.

 

References

[1] https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/electromagnetic-compatibility-emc/radio-frequency-identification-rfid#:~:text=The%20FDA%20is%20not%20aware,radio%20frequency%20transmitters%20like%20RFID.



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