The healthcare imperative is to provide the best care to its patients using all the available technology. But most healthcare providers are faced with increasing challenges of managing time, inventory, patient outflow, tracking valuable medical equipment, monitoring, and managing of critical data within the organization. Many healthcare providers are considering turning to RFID to boost the efficiency of some of the core healthcare processes and address some of these challenges.

In 2015, the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington had stated that over 5 million medications were being monitored using RFID technology. Besides reducing medication errors and ensuring patient safety, RFID offers many other advantages in the hospitals. Let’s see just how RFID is making a place for itself in healthcare institutions worldwide.

First, What is RFID?

In simple terms, RFID or Radio Frequency Identification is a technology that uses radio signals to record the presence of different objects. This technology depends on RFID tags which help in the automatic recognition of a person, package or any items. RFID tags act as radio transmitters to convey information over a short distance.These RFID chips are so tiny that they can be easily carried along anywhere and embedded in the form of simple cards or even grafted under the skin. They can be used to communicate with other devices as well for updating the health records of different patients. Besides, they are useful in tracking the location of the patients within the premises of the hospital.

They may be used by all kinds of patients, right from health-conscious self-trackers to those suffering from chronic health issues.In addition, RFID has many other applications in the hospitals for asset management, facilities and waste management along with inventory control, access control, parking management, medication control and patient wait time tracking. For ex: RFID chips may be used to keep track of allergies in patients, find out if they are wearing pacemakers or their complete electronic health record may be made accessible to healthcare practitioners using the appropriate reader in case of emergencies.

Some examples where RFID has been used successfully over the years:

According to Mark Roberti, founder and editor of RFID Journal- “RFID in healthcare is still an emerging trend in healthcare sector and hospitals have been so focused on saving the lives of people that they have been slow in adapting technology that saves money”

However, hospitals and healthcare providers from around the world are climbing onboard in growing numbers. Hospitals in the U.S have been using RFID effectively to provide high -quality healthcare and bring down costs significantly for a while now. A UT Austin Center for Research in Electronic Commerce study a few years ago estimated that RFID technologies were providing a 900% return on investment to the retail and healthcare sectors even in the relatively early days of adoption.

Many have cited examples of how RFID has helped them to cut costs and improve patient care.

  • A few years ago, SanrakuHospital in Tokyo joined hands with BayNexus for efficient management of its medical equipment. With the help of a handheld reader and RFID tags in patient wristbands, they matched the prescription drugs information with the electronic record of patients. They could access information by scanning the bar code on the bottle and also read the patient ID number coded on the RFID tag on the wristband.
  • Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital used RFID tags for their staff and patients to monitor people who would encounter patients affected with contagious infections such as TB. They had a team who could manage the data generated by RFID tag scanners, and this was in turn used to caution people who required health screening.
  • Texas Health Hospital Alliance in Fort Worth has tagged high- value assets, patient wristbands to badges of staff members. As a result, it has been able to save around $65000 every month of rental expenses with RFID tagging.

So, what are some possible use cases?

  1. Better management of surgical procedures: Medical devices can be tagged in hospitals to keep track of all the vital devices that are used during surgical procedures. This can help in ensuring better patient safety.
  2. Patient tracking: RFID wristbands can help in eliminating some of the risks associated with many human errors. Horror stories abound of swapping of babies, patients who get an incorrect dosage, or an incorrect medicine etc. The history of the patient, details of their ailments, details of administering medicines etc. can all be accessed through the RFID linked software.
  3. Document tracking and management: Lab reports, pharmacy prescriptions, charts, and data need to be disseminated only to the right people in different departments. With RFID, the documents and files can be protected and access can be controlled to ensure that no patient data or information is misused.
  4. Inventory management: It’s quite common in hospitals to stock up extra equipment or medications to reduce the risk of running short on them in times of emergencies. The use of RFID can help hospitals get transparent visibility into the resources available always and better manage their use and restocking.

Conclusion

The implementation of RFID technology in hospitals can help in improving the quality of healthcare and lead to better efficiency in managing routine tasks and processes. This smart technology can help, healthcare services see a vast improvement in their management of resources and ultimately in the quality of care they provide.

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