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With Thousands of Paper Records to Manage, U.K. Hospital Gets Help From RFID

After adopting 6PM's iFIT solution, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust reduced the hours needed to retrieve and put away patient files by 80 percent.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 03, 2013

Managing patient records presents a mammoth challenge for the multiple trusts (regional health-care bodies) of Great Britain's National Health Service (NHS). Hospitals typically have thousands of records onsite, very few of which are digitized. In nearly every case, paper files are all that staff members have to provide a patient's health history. 6PM Holdings Plc., a U.K.-based provider of IT services and products, has developed its Intelligent File and Inventory Tracking (iFIT) solution, by which passive RFID tags are attached to paper records, and handheld readers are used to track the locations of those documents on shelves, or elsewhere within the hospital.

The technology has been installed at East Surrey Hospital (Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust), while four other trusts are currently in the process of planning or installing the technology.

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust's patient record library contains 201,000 onsite paper files.

The long-term solution to tracking paper records is to digitize them. Many hospitals are in the process of scanning paper files, one document at a time, in order to create digital versions. However, says Steve Wightman, 6PM's deputy chief executive, the conversion process tends to be slow and expensive, and it will be many years before all records are stored electronically. In the meantime, Wightman adds, 6PM's iFIT solution is intended to help hospitals manage their records efficiently until that transition is made.

Jackie Brown, the head of outpatients and health records services at the Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust's clinical support services division, says the manual system of locating and filing its 201,000 onsite patient records was time-consuming. "The health record could be located anywhere within our onsite and offsite facilities," she explains. "Poor tracking means that we could often not locate health records in time for clinics, theater [operating] sessions, etc."

The iFit solution consists of 6PM's CareSolutions software, for managing file data such as a patient's name and birth date, and FileTrail software, for interpreting RFID read data for the CareSolutions system. Numerous hospitals are applying FileTrail EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags to files, and are reading those tags using Motorola MC3190-Z handheld reader.


kofi nti 2013-12-03 01:57:33 PM
I like this system. However, I would like to ask, since there the files can now be put anywhere, can there be a system where the rfid reader can locate the specific tag it is communicating with, by throwing a light (infrared or laser light) directly onto the tag. are there readers like that? I am just becoming curious, because i am interested in developing something that works that way.

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