Are you among the many healthcare administrators and providers who are currently thinking of implementing RFID technology in your healthcare system or hospital?
A mainstay of modern asset management, supply chain management and inventory tracking, radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are a familiar sight in warehouses and retail stores. In recent years, however, they’ve become an increasingly utilized form of technology in healthcare settings, where their uses are manifold—from improving patient care and reducing the risk of human error to cutting costs and tracking supplies and equipment.
RFID: How it Works
RFID tags, also known as “smart labels”, use radio waves to send information contained within the tags or labels to RFID readers. Unlike electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags used in retail or other traditional tracking solutions used in asset tracking, which have read-only capabilities, the tags within an RFID system can be read and written.
That enables these tags to hold additional useful information, and it’s what makes RFID ideal for healthcare settings.
RFID Technology in Healthcare
The beauty of RFID technology is its endless possible uses across a range of industries. With RFID tags, it’s possible to track assets, equipment, people, animals and more.
In the field of healthcare, RFID is already being used to optimize operations, reduce costs, increase safety and improve patient care—and its possible uses have yet to be fully explored.
Here are four common ways people are using RFID in the healthcare market.
Five Things You Can Track With RFID in Healthcare
1. Staff and patients
Think RFID is only useful for tracking material objects? Think again.
Through the use of tagged wristbands, RFID technology can help ensure patient safety, improve operational efficiency, reduce wait times and confirm important details.
Hospitals and healthcare centers use passive RFID—which doesn’t have its own power source—in the form of wristbands that store patient records. This helps improve patient care by guaranteeing that staff give patients the correct medications and treatments.
Lowry Solutions provides track and trace systems to healthcare facilities around the country
Active RFID systems are also found in hospitals, and also have potentially life-saving applications. Many hospitals use RFID technology as part of a Real-Time Locating System (RTLS). Real-time tracking allows hospitals to track the exact location of patients and, crucially, whether they’ve left the building. This includes:
- Patients with dementia and other vulnerable patients who are at risk of wandering off.
- Newborn babies, thus preventing the risk of infants being switched at birth or abducted; you can even give babies and their parents matching wristbands to their parents to ensure there are no mixups.
Locating patients in this way not only allows hospitals to know where patients are at all times, but in some cases, can actually help to prevent them from leaving. The RFID tags might send out signals that sound alarms, lock doors or alert nurses when they detect that a patient is leaving.
RFID technology isn’t just used to keep patients from getting out of hospitals, but to prevent the wrong people from getting in. RFID-enabled security badges ensure that non-authorized personnel can’t roam hallways and put patients and equipment at risk.
2. Medical equipment
No portable equipment is too big to avoid getting lost. Even massive medical equipment—like hospital beds and non-stationary machines—can go missing within large hospitals and healthcare centers. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see pricey equipment pilfered from hospitals appear on online sales platforms, a practice that likely costs healthcare centers millions each year.
Given the substantial costs associated with such assets, loss prevention is absolutely critical. This is another area where RFID benefits healthcare institutions, and in particular, active RFID RTLS, which allows administrators to follow the whereabouts of items as they move throughout hospitals.
3. Surgical instruments
Just as with equipment, it’s important for hospitals to be able to keep track of surgical instruments and ensure that they’re always where they need to be—a complex task given that it’s not uncommon for surgeons to use up to 250 tools per procedure.
It’s even more crucial, however, for doctors to not only know where the necessary instruments are, but to be sure that they’ve been sterilized and are ready for use.
The brilliance of RFID-enabled tags is that they go above and beyond simple tracking and enable users to glean useful insights about the items they’re tracking—such as, for example, the
last time they were properly sanitized and how they were sanitized. This is an important aspect in the fight against contaminated tools being used in operations, which has become a growing problem with the introduction of new, harder-to-clean materials.
Administrators can also use RFID tracking solutions in the same way to track hospital laundry and ensure that it’s sterile and well-stocked.
RFID technology has long been used for inventory tracking of pharmaceuticals, although it’s only more recently that it’s been adapted to not only track individual units of medicine, but its volume as well. That means that doctors and nurses can even track liquid medicine, or the number of pills left in a bottle.
Even more helpfully, RFID is automatic, meaning that healthcare providers don’t have to spend time manually scanning labels. Once again, implementing RFID technology in this way also helps to improve the safety of patient care, given that it enables healthcare professionals to determine when nurses administer medication and thus avoid over-administration.
5.Other medical supplies
In an industry with as much on the line as healthcare, running out of crucial supplies is not an option. RFID inventory tracking for disposable or single-use supplies like gloves and masks guarantees that medical personnel have the items they need when they need them.
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Radio-frequency identification is increasingly revolutionizing how businesses across numerous industries operate.
In the field of healthcare, RFID has the potential to not only save unforetold time and money, but actually save lives.
Are you ready to implement RFID tags in your healthcare environment? Contact Lowry Solutions today to discuss whether an RFID system is right for your organization.