RFID Solutions in the Healthcare Industry
RFID solutions are becoming increasingly popular in use in many industries including the healthcare industry. It is a powerful technology that makes tasks such as tracking location and movement of assets a seamless process.
Let’s learn how RFID technology applies to and benefits the healthcare industry in the modern era.
What is RFID?
RFID, which stands for Radio Frequency Identification, is a technology that works on a tag system. RFID consists of three parts that include the reader, transponder, and antenna.
The antenna is responsible for furnishing a communication method with the RFID tag, using a radio-frequency signal. When the tag goes through the scanning antenna’s frequency field, it identifies the signal and stores the information that the antenna picks up.
RFID technology is similar to barcode technology but works faster. An RFID solutions provider typically works on providing this technology to clients across various industries.
How does RFID technology apply in the healthcare industry?
RFID solutions are extremely beneficial in the healthcare industry. They have multiple uses in this industry and currently apply to many sub processes within the healthcare system. Here are some of the primary ways in which RFID solutions impact the healthcare industry.
- Patient tracking
Hospitals can make use of RFID to identify and track patients being treated within its boundaries. The hospital staff puts the RFID band around the patient’s wrist. The wristband contains vital information including patient name, medical history, and allergies. It helps the doctor identify the patient’s allergies when treating him for a long time. It also provides doctors with the patient’s medical history which can provide vital information before the patient undergoes surgery.
RFID tags can also be helpful to locate patients within the hospital. Patients with memory loss may stray or get lost in hospital, in which case the RFID band around their wrist can help the staff locate them.
- Asset tracking
Underutilization and loss of mobile assets costs the healthcare sector millions of dollars annually. It’s cumbersome to keep track of equipment in hospitals when staff keep rotating in shifts. Improving visibility of where essential equipment is stored, can considerably improve operational performance.
Further, updating medical assets takes only a few minutes rather than the many hours it takes when updating in the conventional method. It also helps better utilize assets, thus significantly reducing capital expenditure. It improves patient safety with an increase in maintenance inspection rates and also helps improve management of contractors.
- Sterilize service tracking
RFID solutions also help in the management and cleaning of surgical instruments. It provides a complete track and trace solution with the option of GSI compliant tags for assets. Medical devices and other necessary apparatus are constantly being transported through a cycle of operating rooms and cleaning processes. Therefore, it’s vital to know which items are available for use, which needs to be cleaned, and which ones need to be replaced.
- Implant tracking with smart cabinets
RFID smart cabinets give the option of capturing data about each plant automatically, accurately and quickly. It assists in improving patient safety, reducing costs, and saving time. Smart cabinets and handheld readers, implemented with RFID technology, automatically track surgical apparatus from receipt to storage and up to the point it is implanted into the patient. This mechanism avoids unnecessary delays within the process. It also helps in improved stock management and increased accountability.
- Temperature monitoring
RFID enables cost-effective temperature monitoring solutions for applications such as hospital fridges, critical patient environments, and storage spaces. Automatic temperature monitoring systems in the healthcare industry helps improve patient safety and increase operational effectiveness. It also helps ensure regulatory compliance within hospital operations. Temperature sensors use RFID technology to transmit regular temperature readings via the network to transfer into a central database. A software interface is linked to the system with parameters for maximum and minimum temperatures. Therefore, if the temperature goes outside the specified range, the system is enabled to send alerts.
- Baby tagging
RFID integrated baby tagging system prevents unauthorized removal of babies from neonatal, maternity, and pediatric wards. The solution provides 24/7 infant security and peace of mind for ward staff and mothers. RFID-enabled baby safety systems make use of lightweight tags that accurately monitor and track real-time location. It can automatically trigger an alarm, notifying staff when an infant is being moved from a defined location.
- GS1 asset labeling
GS1 compliant asset labeling is possible for medical equipment using RFID technology. It helps improve efficiency and the quality of care in hospitals. This labeling saves millions of dollars from being invested in redundant medical equipment and apparatus. The benefits of GS1 asset labeling using RFID includes the following:
- GS1 compliance
- Rapid auditing
- Scan for safety option
- Reduces time spend searching for equipment
- Enhanced inventory management
- Tracking reusable PPE
RFID can be used to track reusable PPE that can reduce losses and ensure that there are enough of them ready for use at any point of time. There has been an increase in the use of reusable PPE due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the growing cost and environmental concerns posed by disposable PPE. A special passive RFID laundry tag is placed in each gown and the hospital care or laundry service can track the location of these items. They can also track the cycle of storage, use, transport, cleaning, and returning of these items. In addition, this system helps to make informed purchase decisions based on the data collected via RFID. Stock monitoring is also possible to ensure that sufficient stock is available. The system has a mechanism to record the number of cleaning cycles and send out an alert when reusable PPE is coming to the end of its number of maximum uses.
- Theater inventory management
RFID solutions help streamline the management of theater supplies in large acute hospitals. This system can optimize stock holding and minimize waste. It also helps free up time for theater staff. All devices and equipment required for operations can be tracked which ensures hospitals can record usage of each device and ensure reliable replenishment of inventory. It also frees up capital tied up in redundant stock.
- Staff safety
RFID solutions help safeguard staff working in hospitals. Enabling the emergency call system helps protect staff in case of attacks from patients or visitors. The system avoids false alarms as alerts can be easily canceled while also having quick response times for security. Staff feel safer working in the hospital with this type of system in place.
- Pharmaceutical and medicine tracking
Medicine and pharmaceutical products are the most crucial items in a hospital. RFID technology helps track the movement of medicine, even in pharmacies attached to hospitals. The system not only informs when the medicine is running out of stock but also sends out an alert notifying the expiry of the medicine.
How can an RFID solutions provider help hospitals?
There are three main ways in which RFID solutions help hospitals. They are as follows:
- Asset tagging and tracking with serial numbers in place.
- Use of asset management software to gather information and provide analytics for effective decision making.
- Real-time tracking of the inventory system to manage stocks and send out an alert when stocks drop below the threshold level.
Limitations in RFID technology in the healthcare industry
With all of the above benefits, there are also a few limitations in terms of using RFID solutions in the healthcare industry. There is a possibility of a setback in the system’s ability to obtain accurate data transfer in terms of patient’s safety and privacy concerns, and the costs involved in the process. There could also be issues in monitoring and tracking limitations due to human error.
Proper planning needs to take place before implementing RFID technology in a healthcare setting. Significant reduction in costs can be made by taking several steps including the use of reusable tags instead of disposable ones. Strong authentication mechanisms in the system along with patient consent on obtaining their data could reduce the risks involved in data privacy concerns.
Healthcare and administrative staff involved in the procedure needs to be given adequate training on how to use the respective systems. It will reduce the possibility of human error, to a great extent. They should also be informed of the escalation procedure in case they have an issue working with the system or get alerts or warnings.
RFID technology can immensely benefit the healthcare industry, especially concerning hospitals. It can help manage stocks, protect staff, and so many more functions in a hospital setting. Hospitals have adhered to this technology and continue to reap its many benefits. In the future, with advancement in technology, hospitals will see further automation of systems that will help manage processes much more easily and accurately.
When properly implemented, an RFID solutions provider can make hospitals efficiently manage their operational activities through the use of RFID tags and related technology. As a result, it not only aids in better management of assets but also helps improve the level of patient care.