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Saving Patients and Money

RFID technology can improve patient outcomes while helping hospitals cut costs.
By Mark Roberti
Dec 02, 2013

There has been a lot of noise here in the United States regarding health care, due to the recent government shutdown over the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), and the disastrous launch of the Healthcare.gov website, which individuals were supposed to use to sign up for insurance under the law. Unfortunately, all the shouting has prevented a positive discussion about how to start controlling health-care costs.

One way to control costs is to improve patient care by reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired infections and medical errors. To prevent the spread of infection, for example, some hospitals have deployed RFID hand-hygiene monitoring solutions, to ensure nurses and doctors wash their hands before and after seeing patients. This week, at our RFID in Health Care conference and exhibition, being held in Washington, D.C., Kathi Cox and Winjie Tank Miao will explain how Texas Health Resources has taken that idea a step further. The firm is using the personnel-locating capability of its RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) to identify which staff members have been within the vicinity of an infectious patient, in order to help reduce the spread of infection (see Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Finds RTLS Provides Many Benefits).

During the event, Akira Nakamura, the general manager of Japan's Sanraku Hospital, will explain how the medical center is using an intelligent nursing information system to reduce medical errors. Handheld readers with bar-code and RFID capabilities confirm or update patient information stored in the hospital's electronic medical record (EMR) system. At a patient's bedside, a nurse scans the RFID tag on that patient's wristband, as well as a bar code on the medicine to be administered. The drug information is then compared with the latest prescription information stored in the EMR, ensuring that the patient does not receive the wrong drug or an incorrect dose (see Hospitals in Japan, China Seek to Save Lives Via Pocketsize Reader).

The Joint Commission mandates the annual inspection of X-ray protection vests, which is a time-consuming task for most hospitals. Members of a facility's radiology staff must look through the vests' histories on a spreadsheet before attempting to locate each vest, by walking through as many as 30 or 40 storage locations. Stuart Grogan, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's radiology equipment manager, will explain how his unit implemented a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution to manage each vest's location and inspection data, thereby saving time and ensuring that no vest is missed (see Wake Forest Baptist Builds Its Own RFID Solution for Radiology Vest Inspection).

Terry J. Broussard, the VP of support services at Louisiana's Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, will explain how his hospital is using an active RFID-based RTLS solution to track the locations of large medical equipment and employees. Why track employees? Because then the facility can understand how responsive staff members are, and better manage their activities. The system also allows managers to transmit messages to nurses based on where they are located, thereby improving care (see Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System Expands RTLS Usage).

RFID is obviously not a cure-all for rapidly rising health-care costs—but for those hospitals that are deploying RFID solutions, it is a surefire way to reduce costs while improving patient safety. If you are a health-care executive, I encourage you to attend the event this week and learn how your hospital can benefit from the technology's deployment.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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