As RFID technology continues to expand across the globe, impacting industries and accounting for an estimated 7 billion RFID tags currently in use in retail alone, the healthcare industry is undergoing a RFID-assisted revolution itself, one that is helping to save lives.
This revolution in efficiencies and care touch all aspects of the healthcare industry. Whether it be superior management of operations and systems or more precise personnel and safety processes, RFID is the wave of the future.
Here are five key areas in which RFID technology has been proven in making an impact on the healthcare industry and in the lives of the patients it serves.
Although the healthcare industry accounts for a large portion of the world’s economy, at its core, it is really about saving lives, and RFID tags and sensors are helping to make a critical difference in this regard.
- Wrist bands utilizing RFID chips enhance safety via point-of-care scanning which facilitates retrieval of a patient’s medication and meal scheduling, prescribed medicines and the patient's medical history. With just one scan potential errors are reduced.
- RFID tags embedded in devices for replacement surgeries such as those involving hips and knees can reduce the potential for infection.
- Wrist bracelets utilising RFID tags connect newborn infants with their parents and helps medical personnel to monitor the infant’s safety from possible unauthorized removal.
- Worry of one patient coming into contact with another who has a severe and contagious infection is remedied through a screening process made possible by RFID technology.
RFID technology is helping to ensure medical facilities have the equipment, devices and medicines on hand and available through advances in control of inventory and supplies.
- Medical facilities save millions of dollars through RFID-assisted advances in asset management.
- Control of inventory for critical devices ranging from heart pumps to bedpans is made more efficient through RFID technology.
- Medical supplies including prescription drugs are ordered, sorted and tracked via RFID, ensuring more reliable flows and positive results for patients.
No matter how advanced the inventory control system, a comparable advance in quality control is required in order to better serve the medical facility and the patient.
- The right medication must be administered in correct dosage in order to achieve desired results. RFID helps to ensure this through tags that provide medical personnel with the information they need to make correct decisions.
- One field in which RFID technology is making big inroads is in organ donor processes. RFID tags placed on corpses in morgues and Medical Examiner offices allows for an automated record accessible to specialist who perform transplants. This allows them to better determine the viability of organs available for transplanting, potentially increasing the number of life-saving transplants performed.
Monitoring Critical Systems
Throughout the healthcare industry much of the life-saving technology exists in the area of critical systems involving everything from medical devices, surgery equipment and instruments to refrigerated storage environments.
- RFID tags reduce errors in the laboratory process. Better tracking of lab equipment such as slides, test tubes and blood vials promotes efficiency and better inventory control and safety.
- One essential area where RFID technology has proven to be effective is in the instruments and equipment associated with surgical procedures, both large and small. This helps not only in proper accounting for instruments and equipment, but also in ensuring nothing is left inside the patient during surgery -- from a simple sponge to a clamp.
- One especially noteworthy example of an area where RFID technology has brought about vital improvements in processes is those related to refrigerated storage environments utilized for monitoring and tracking samples of blood and tissue, or those medical devices with expiration dates, all of which requires specific storage temperatures. This RFID technology is found in many medical facilities including research where human tissues and cancer elements can be safely monitored and stored.
It should come as no surprise that even in the area of medical personnel RFID is making a positive difference in healthcare.
- Whether it be tracking of medical staff members to ensure availability, to ensuring hygiene standards like the washing of hands is maintained, these advances translate to more efficient use of manpower.
- One noteworthy example of this is in surgery where surgical nurses, due to RFID, are freed from physically tracking and counting surgical instruments and equipment and are, therefore, better able to assist surgeons.
It is somewhat surprising that a field such as healthcare, where RFID technology is expanding at such a burgeoning pace, seems to take a back seat to retail applications in RFID in terms of both academic and media coverage. With ever increasing advances in life saving RFID technology, this trend is likely to change over time.