Brigham and Women's Hospital Tests NFC RFID for Patient Bedsides
An interdisciplinary project team is developing a solution for the electronic management of medication administration, with Near Field Communication passive tags attached to medications, patients' wristband and nurses' badges.
The team is presently performing initial testing of the system within a medical-simulation environment, using mock patients (mannequins) and comparing its efficiency against that of the traditional bar-code solution. For the NFC system, users first open the app, which lists patients, and then select the specific patient name they seek. The app lists the medications and dosages that the patient should be receiving. The nursing staff can then remove those medicines from the shelf. When administering the medication, they use the Nexus 7 tablet to read the RFID tag on the patient's wristband, and the tag on the medicine. The system indicates, on the tablet screen, whether the patient and pharmaceutical pairing is correct. If that medicine is incorrect for that patient, an error message will be displayed on the screen. The employee then also reads the tag on his or her own badge ID, in order to link the three tags in the software and thereby retain a record of which medication was administered to which patient, and by whom.
The system could provide more than just verification of which medications are administered—it could also enable personnel to enter information into the software while at a patient's bedside. For example, when administering pain medication, a nurse could enter the patient's pain level on a scale of one to 10, as well as the dosage that he or she decides to provide, based on that information. That data could then be stored, to be viewed by other health-care practitioners when the next dosage is scheduled. The tablet would transmit information back to the patient's electronic health record via a Wi-Fi connection.
Based on nurses' comments, Landman says, early testing is finding that the NFC solution "is well received." He notes that although it may only save a few seconds per visit for each nurse, the overall reduction in time spent fiddling with the technology over the course of a week or longer could be extensive.
The pilot involving mock patients has been underway since January 2013, and is expected to be completed next month. If the results from the pilot indicate that it was a success, Landman says he plans to conduct a second pilot on live patients at the hospital.
According to Landman, the tags currently being used are "off-the-shelf NFC tags," though he declines to name the vendors. So far, he says, he has observed that some tags are difficult to read on foil-wrapped medication, such as blister packs, and different tags may need to be acquired for this type of packaging.
"We think this will be a big advantage to have the scanner and data collection all possible on one device," Landman states. To enable the data to be integrated with the hospital's electronic health record, he says, the facility may look for other technology providers that could assist with that integration.
Landman says his group hopes to share the results of the pilot in a peer-reviewed journal. In the future, he adds, he could envision the technology being adopted by BWH, as well as by other hospitals and health-care providers.
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