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RFID for Healthcare Asset Management

RFID for Healthcare Asset Management

Pros And Cons Of RFID In Healthcare

The introduction of RFID technology has made a remarkable change in various industries including healthcare. Its application in the healthcare sector has enabled hospitals and healthcare centers to manage seamless running of operations. From access control to monitoring of the sterilization of equipment, RFID technology continues to play a major role within the healthcare sector. 

The global healthcare RFID solutions market is expected to amount to $10.65 billion by 2025 [1]. It is a significant amount that shows the impact RFID has had on the healthcare sector. Many hospitals in the US and across the world, have adapted this technology into their systems. 

RFID in brief

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is a form of wireless communication method that makes use of RFID tags to track and monitor objects including people, animals, and non-living things. In terms of the use of RFID in the healthcare sector, hospitals make use of this technology to streamline their processes and make them more effective. 

This technology involves a transceiver, transponder, and a scanning antenna to successfully communicate between the relevant tracking object and the system. The combination of the transceiver and antenna is called the ‘RFID reader. RFID technology in the healthcare sector makes use of RFID tags and RFID readers to track and monitor assets including people and equipment. 

RFID in asset management & tracking applications

RFID tags are an essential element in effectively managing and using medical devices and supplies. An RFID solutions provider consists of engineers and fully-automated production that consists of contactless transponders which are perfect for vital medical equipment and applications. These tracking and asset management applications help healthcare facilities provide improved patient care and control risk. RFID solution providers also offer customized services that work for specialized needs by creating RFID tags optimized for such applications.

RFID technology-based systems allow greater accuracy with RFID tags that can decrease errors and positively influence patient outcomes and strengthen staff security measures.

Why use RFID tracking

One of the major uses of RFID solutions in the healthcare sector is in asset management. The healthcare sector experiences a major loss of millions of dollars annually due to the loss and underutilization of mobile assets. It is more significant in acute hospitals with large multi-tiered sites where over 10,000 medical assets are in place. It is challenging to keep track of the equipment when the staff has to keep searching for devices that may well be out of service. Even if the device is available, it is still a lot of work trying to search for one item among 10,000 assets.

The use of RFID technology improves the visibility of the location of various medical equipment. This can have a significant impact on the operational performance. 

What are the benefits of RFID tracking?

  • Simplified asset management and tracking

Regular audits are essential to manage hospitals assets and also as part of financial compliance. They are also the only way a healthcare facility can know exactly what assets and how many of each they have. It is a time-consuming process to do this manually, which is where RFID technology comes into use.

RFID solutions simplify this process and enable staff to gather asset data in a fraction of the time it would take to manually find and count them. Hospital staff can simply walk into a room with an RFID reader and capture the required data.

  • Streamlined preventative maintenance

The successful treatment of patients in a hospital greatly depends on how it utilizes and maintains its medical equipment and supplies. Hospital staff needs to track which devices need replacement, which ones need maintenance, which ones are not available, and so on. All of this is not possible if staff cannot locate a medical device among tens of thousands. Many of the medical equipment are mobile, which means that they may well be moved from one room to another several times a day. 

RFID technology helps streamline the entire process and help locate the equipment. The same technology can be used to track the asset through the maintenance, repairs, and overhaul (MRO) process.

  • Other 

Other benefits of using RFID technology in the healthcare sector includes the following:

  • Fully integrated with asset management databases.
  • Enhanced patient safety with more maintenance inspection rates.
  • Simplified inventory management.
  • Improved asset utilization which results in a significant reduction in capital expenditure.
  • Improved management of vendors and contractors.

RFID architecture

RFID follows a simple procedure to provide the desired results in terms of streamlining the processes in place in a hospital. Here is the simple architecture that RFID follows in a healthcare setting.

  • RFID tags

RFID tags can work in active or passive modes. These tags are attached to hospital assets to locate and monitor their whereabouts. These assets include medical equipment and supplies, hospital staff, patients, and visitors.

  • RFID readers

RFID readers are typically installed in hospitals wards and corridors to identify the location and track object movements.

Besides these, the RFID system also makes use of a firewall for secure data transmission. Data analytics tools are also used to identify patterns in asset usage and movement. Finally, the front end consists of a staff application and admin application with the required functionalities for each user level.

Active vs. passive RFID for asset tracking

The following are the two main types of RFID tags:

  • Passive RFID

Passive RFID tags do not contain a battery. Therefore, these types of tags are relatively inexpensive for a range of assets. A fixed or handheld RFID reader can typically read over 1000 passive RFID tags per second at a range of up to 10 meters. The cost-effectiveness of this solution makes it ideal 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.

  • Active RFID

Active RFID tags are more expensive than passive RFID tags. However, they offer more versatility and benefits in terms of usage. Active RFID tags require a battery 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, at times. 

RFID for healthcare asset management

One of the major benefits of RFID technology is its use in healthcare asset management. Hospitals greatly benefit from this functionality as they need to manage a massive amount of assets, which is not possible to do manually. Below are the different ways in which RFID is used for healthcare asset management.

  • Medicine asset tracking 

All medical tools including reusable and disposable, and durable assets such as beds and medical equipment are equipped with RFID tags. This helps monitor their availability so that hospitals don’t run out of essential supplies, especially when they are much needed. Medical staff can track the locations of these assets using a web or mobile application.

  • Medical inventory management

Managing the inventory is a crucial aspect of successful functioning of a hospital. RFID technology enables inventory tracking of medication, especially to identify shortages and expiration in a timely manner. RFID solutions for medical inventory management also helps prevent theft and ensure the intended use of the medication. The latter is possible because the instructions on usage of different medicines are stored in the tracking system.

  • Medical equipment & sterilization

Safe sterilization of surgical tools and medical supplies are critical in a hospital setting. Patient care and hospital reputation can be impacted due to poor management of the sterilization of medical tools and supplies. Surgical tools that are not properly sterilized could contain bacteria that could put a patient’s health at risk. RFID technology enables tracking the tools that are not cleaned and disinfected after a surgery. This ensures that no tools are left without being properly sterilized.

  • Monitor temperature for supply storage

RFID technology has also proven to be beneficial in monitoring temperature for supply storages in hospitals. This technology utilizes sensors to monitor humidity and temperature levels in refrigerators that store medicines, vaccines, and food. Apart from this, RFID solutions also help manage humidity and temperature levels at operating rooms in hospitals. RFID tags read the temperatures and send this information over the wireless network to the cloud-based system. The system has been configured to send alerts in case temperature and humidity goes above or below the defined limits.

  • Patient and medical records

Hospitals make patients wear wristbands with RFID tacks that allow them to keep track of the patient’s locations and movements. It is especially useful for patients suffering from memory issues as it prevents them from wandering off along hospital corridors and stairs. RFID solutions ensure quality patient care in hospitals. 

It also stores the patient’s personal information and medical records so that the patient gets proper treatment and care while in hospital.

  • Medical staff tracking

Medical staff also wear wristbands with RFID tags, similar to patients. It helps track their location, movements, and interactions. RFID solutions help medical supervisors keep track of medical staff and find which doctors and nurses are available in case of emergencies. It also helps identify bottlenecks in the hospital workflow and reduce overwork. RFID technology helps ensure high-quality patient care and efficient hospital workflow through medical staff tracking.

  • Hospital visitors tracking

RFID solutions help track the location and movements of visitors coming into the hospital. It prevents them from unauthorized access to high-security zones within the hospital, including surgery rooms and inventories. 

Conclusion

RFID technology is extremely beneficial to the healthcare industry, especially in terms of healthcare asset management. Proper implementation of this technology within the hospital system ensures high-quality medical services to patients. It also improves the efficiency of medical staff and helps track their location.

Sources links

[1] https://www.scnsoft.com/healthcare/iot/rfid-in-hospitals

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