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U.K.'s Newcastle NHS Trust Adopts RFID to Help Track Patient Records

Since the deployment in February, the trust has tagged 250,000 files and conducted more than a million read events using a UHF RFID solution from 6PM Group.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 10, 2015

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, in northeastern England, is employing a combination of radio frequency identification and bar-coding technologies to manage hundreds of thousands of patient files. The Intelligent File and Inventory Tracking (iFIT) solution, provided by 6PM Group, includes passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tags affixed to files, fixed and handheld readers, and bar-coded labels attached to shelves in the hospital libraries. The iFIT solution, 6PM reports, improves overall staff efficiency and reduces the risk of losing a file entirely, while helping to improve safety by ensuring that the necessary paperwork can be located quickly in the event of a patient emergency.

Newcastle is one of the largest teaching hospital trusts in the United Kingdom, with 1.1 million outpatient appointments annually. (Each NHS trust serves a specific geographic region in the United Kingdom, and can include multiple hospitals.) The Newcastle Trust's three campuses provide in-patient and emergency care to a combined total of 500,000 people per year, and also manage 1.1 million outpatient appointments annually. The three sites operate a total of 18 libraries in which the patient files are stored, and about 4,000 of the trust's 14,500 employees use the files on a daily basis.

6PM's Steve Wightman
The trust transports thousands of case notes daily from one location to another, according to Gordon Elder, Newcastle's outpatients and records manager. This helps the facility to ensure that clinicians have the information they need when treating or following up with patients.

Without an automated system, tracking the files that contain patient records can be extremely time-consuming, Elder says, and require considerable walking around the facilities to search for files that may or may not be where they're expected to be.

"We wanted a system that would assist our staff in locating case notes, especially in an emergency," Elder explains. Newcastle stores 2.1 million files of case notes, and is currently in the process of digitally scanning its files. To date, about 500,000 of the files have been digitally scanned. In the meantime, since the majority are still on paper only, the trust's staff must track those files' locations, whether they are actively in use or are stored within one of the libraries.

"Managing the libraries on a daily basis was very demanding and resource-intensive," Elder says, describing the file-tracking process prior to Newcastle's adoption of the iFIT system. "All case notes were filed numerically. This involved a lengthy process of general sorting, a second step of more specific file sorting, and ultimately placing the paperwork on shelves according to the numerical system. With iFIT, this process is now almost gone, as staff can now track directly on shelves."

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