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RFID Delivers Newborn Security

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital uses RFID to track the location of its newest patients and ensure they won’t be removed without permission. The same system is being used to track assets.
By Jonathan Collins
Jan 31, 2005Maternity hospitals know that security at their institutions is essential—and for good reason. Between 1983 and 2004, 233 infants were abducted in the U.S., with more than 50 percent taken directly from healthcare facilities, according to the U.S. National Center for Missing Children. In a bid to prevent such abductions many hospitals are turning to RFID and finding that in addition to protecting the newborns in their care, the technology can be used for a range of other applications.

At the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital (LPCH), an academic medical center at the Stanford University Medical Center campus in Palo Alto, Calif., RFID has been deployed to track babies for the past four years. Although the system started with the tracking and securing newborns within its postpartum and well-baby nursery units—a 36,000-square-foot, two-floor operation, the system has also been expanded to track other patients, nursing staff and medical equipment.

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at the Stanford University Medical Center

"While we were looking at infant-protection systems, the added value of being able to track assets was of great appeal to us," says Gloria C. Santos, RN, the patient-care manager for inpatient perinatal service at LPCH. "We decided to invest in a system that would allow us that flexibility. However, we made the conscious decision to integrate the asset-tracking piece after the infant protection side was fully implemented and stable, and the staff was comfortable with the system."

Through the use of RFID readers placed on the ceiling of in its perinatal areas, LPCH's RFID system can use triangulation to calculate and track the exact location of all newborns. RFID readers installed at the exits ensure that a baby is not removed from the unit without permission.

A 248-bed nonprofit facility devoted entirely to the care of babies, children, adolescents and expectant mothers, LPCH began it RFID deployment four years ago, starting with the tracking and securing newborns within its postpartum and well-baby nursery units—a 36,000-square-foot, two-floor operation. It later added the tracking of other patients, nursing staff and medical equipment.

So far, LPCH has put into service 75 reusable battery-powered baby RFID tags and about 60 reusable battery-powered asset tags. This year, the institution plans to increase the number of asset tags to well more than 1,000, with long-term plans for expanding the quantity to approximately 4,000 tags. By the end of 2005, SUMC hopes to expand that RFID network to extend to the rest of the 250,000-square-foot LPCH facility, as well as the 1.4 million square feet of the adjoining Stanford Hospital & Clinics. (Lucile Packard Children's Hospital and Stanford Hospital & Clinics are sister facilities physically attached yet operating under two separate licenses).

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