RFID examples in healthcare
Modern advancements in healthcare are mainly due to the sophisticated technological devices and related software. Technology has allowed for greater expansion in the healthcare industry. From treatments to patient management, everything has been streamlined in this sector.
One of the primary advancements in the healthcare industry in terms of management of healthcare assets, is RFID. Solutions based on this technology have enabled the efficient and effective management of various processes within the healthcare system.
Let’s learn more about RFID technology in healthcare and some examples of its use in this industry.
The use of RFID technology
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a wireless communication method that uses radio waves to transmit data. Its primary use is to track located objects that can include both living and non-living things.
RFID tags read the data and pass it on to the system. An RFID system consists of a transmitter, receiver, and transponder. This technology is in use in a multitude of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, hospitality, education, clothing & fashion, and security.
RFID in healthcare
RFID plays a significant role in the healthcare sector. It can help manage many processes within healthcare facilities. RFID solutions in the healthcare sector are predicted to generate a revenue of around $12 billion by 2027. It is also expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 21% between 2020 and 2027. 
An RFID solutions provider will install this system in a healthcare facility such as a hospital, to help in various functions including asset tracking, inventory management, patient tracking, and many more. Keeping track of assets, patients, and various other factors, in major hospitals with a large number of staff and patients, could be a challenging task. RFID solutions can simplify processes and have a significant impact on hospital operations and administration tasks.
RFID technology and how it works
The RFID system consists of the following components:
- A transponder
- A transceiver
- A scanning antenna
The transceiver and scanning antenna together is referred to as the RFID reader. RFID readers could be fixed or mobile devices. A portable or attached RFID reader transmits signals via radio waves, which activates the RFID tag. Once it’s activated, the RFID tag sends radio waves back to the scanning antenna, where it is translated into data.
The RFID tag contains the transponder. The read ranges of RFID tags differ based on several factors including tag type, reader type, RFID frequency, and interference levels in the surrounding environment.
Benefits of RFID in healthcare
RFID has some major benefits when used in the healthcare industry. Here are some of the key advantages of using RFID technology in healthcare:
- Asset tracking
- Inventory management
- Saves time and money through automation
- Enhancement of health and safety
- Improve data accuracy and availability
- Improved quality of services
- Enhanced traceability
- Improved production control
- Availability of in-depth management data
- Process shortening
- Increase revenues
These key benefits had led to the introduction of RFID technology across the healthcare sector.
Challenges of RFID
RFID solutions have a few challenges when implemented in real-world applications. These challenges include the following:
- Reader collision
Reader collision occurs when a signal from one RFID reader interferes with another reader. Using an anti-collision protocol can help prevent reader collision. In this mechanism, the RFID tags take turns transmitting to their relevant reader.
- Tag collision
Tag collision occurs when there are too many tags that confuse the RFID reader by sending data simultaneously. Opting for a reader that collects tag data one at a time will prevent this problem.
RFID examples in healthcare
RFID technology is very popular in the healthcare industry. It provides great ease in handling many of the essential processes in healthcare facilities including hospitals. Below are examples of RFID technology used in healthcare.
- Supply chain inventory management
RFID solutions are used in supply chain inventory management in hospitals in the following ways:
- Improved utilization, visibility, and accuracy of inventory
- Reduce product waste, expiration, and shrinkage
- Reduce costs involved in supply chain and equipment
- Customized automated inventory tracking solutions with additional features to enhance the process.
- Patient identification, tracking, and medical records
Patients are given RFID-enabled wristbands so that hospitals can keep track of their locations and movements. It also stores the patient’s vital information including name, medical history, allergies, and so on.
Patient medical history and records can provide critical information required when doing surgical procedures. RFID-enabled wristbands can help track patient whereabouts, especially with those who suffer from memory loss and wander off by themselves in hospital corridors and stairs.
- Equipment identification and tracking
Hospitals maintain a large amount of equipment. It’s vital to identify and track the locations of equipment, especially mobile ones that keep changing from one location to another within the span of the day. RFID tags can even identify equipment that moves outside of the hospital.
RFID also helps identify equipment that require maintenance or not in working condition. It is especially vital for equipment in operating theaters, which need to be inspected regularly to avoid unplanned breakdowns.
All of this helps manage hospital operations seamlessly while providing high-quality patient care.
- Pharmaceutical and medicine tracking
Hospitals can manage and track pharmaceuticals using RFID solutions. RFID technology is helpful in identifying and notifying on the stock levels and expiration dates of medications. Medicines and pharmaceuticals play a vital role in hospitals which is why their management is critical for successful operations and high-quality patient care. Hospitals must maintain a consistent stock of vital medicines. Tracking of stocks is vital for medicines as they are essential items that are also high-priced.
- Surgical tools sterilization tracking
Sterilization of surgical equipment is essential in a hospital. Surgical tools such as scissors and scalpels, need to be sterilized after each use as they can carry bacteria. Using unsterilized surgical tools could put the next patient, undergoing surgery, at risk. RFID technology enables tracking the tools that are not cleaned and disinfected after an operation. So, it ensures that no tools are left without being properly sterilized.
- Temperature monitoring
Monitoring the temperature of supply storages of hospitals is also vital. RFID solutions can monitor humidity and temperature levels in hospital refrigerators. These refrigerators are used to store essential items including food, medicine, and vaccines. It can also monitor and control humidity and temperature in operating rooms.
- Baby tagging
A light, small RFID-enabled tag can accurately monitor real-time location of babies in maternity, neonatal, and pediatric wards. It is essential to capture any attempt taken to move a baby out of specialized care units. It ensures the baby’s safety. Baby tagging using RFID technology also helps pair babies with their mothers. The allowed-out feature in the tag prevents accidental or intentional removal of a baby. It also sends alerts to prevent unauthorized removal of tags.
- Access control
RFID tags can help track location and movements of patients, medical staff, and visitors. It can help track visitor location and prevent them from accessing high-security areas within the hospital, such as operating theaters and inventories. It can also help locate where a patient or medical staff is at any given moment and prevent patients from moving out of their rooms or wards. Identifying and alerting on unauthorized access is one the primary access control tasks of RFID solutions.
- Forecast of patient flow and hospital admission rates
Analyzing the information collected via RFID can help hospitals predict the patient flow. It can also help plan the purchase of medical supply and equipment, and the hospital’s overall load. Based on this data, hospitals can plan on patient treatment schedules, staff workflows, and surgeries.
- Monitoring of suspicious behavior
RFID tags can help identify any unusual behavior of patients. For example, it can detect when a patient is immobile for more than 15 minutes on the hospital’s stairs or corridors. It can also monitor suspicious behavior of visitors and even intruders. The system sends alerts to a nurse or administrative staff, when it detects suspicious behavior. The hospital staff can then take necessary actions accordingly, to prevent any issues from occurring.
- Patient-doctor interactions control
RFID technology makes use of software that gathers data on interactions between patients and medical staff. It helps ensure that patient care is provided in a timely manner and with the correct frequency. It can improve the quality of services provided by the hospital.
RFID technology is now commonly used across many applications and processes in the healthcare industry. Its benefits to the industry are immense. The main solutions that it provides in this sector include asset tracking, inventory management, access control, surgical tools sterilization, forecast of patient flow and hospital admission rates, and patient, staff, and medicine tracking.