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RFID Delivers Healthy Return for Hospital

Jacobi Medical Center's RFID-enabled patient ID system not only enhances patient care and staff working conditions, but will also save $1 million a year when fully deployed.
By Jonathan Collins
May 02, 2005When the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City considered using RFID to improve patient care and increase efficiency in its operations, RFID became another in a long line of technologies introduced to help streamline its operations. "The hospital has a very pro-technology bent and has had so for about 15 years," says Daniel Morreale, chief technology officer for the North Bronx Healthcare Network, which owns and operates the Jacobi Medical Center.

Jacobi, which serves more than 1 million New York City-area residents, already operates a completely computerized physician order-entry system so that any request from a doctor—ranging from patient admission to meals to surgery or medication—is created and managed entirely electronically. In addition, around 95 percent of the hospitals health records are managed electronically.

However, Morreale was looking for a way to extend the reach of its IT operations into areas where manual processes were still being used and could be made more efficient. RFID promised to provide a solution, by changing how doctors and nurses interacted with patients at their bedside.

Working with systems integrator Siemens Business Services, Jacobi deployed a pilot system that put RFID-enabled plastic wristbands on patients admitted into the two wards at the hospital's acute-care department. The pilot, which began in July last year, was set to run for just two months.

"I thought, 'If I can just wave the PC over the patient's wrist and bring up the problem list, medications, allergies and other critical information, it will simplify patient identification and save clinical-staff keystrokes,'" Morreale says.

During that initial trial, doctors and nursing staff used RFID readers installed in portable PCs to automatically identify each patient. The devices read the unique ID number encoded on an RFID tag embedded in the patient's wristband and opened the patient's medical file on the PC screen, enabling the patient's records to be reviewed and updated at bedside.

Two months later, when the trial was supposed to end, Morreale maintains that the reaction from the staff alone proved the value of deploying the technology further. "Staff refused to give back the equipment, and other departments had started to say they wanted it too," says Morreale. "The system has completely proven its worth."

According to Morreale the system has increased productivity, improved patient care and promises to create savings for the hospital as well. "The trial system saved one hour per nurse per shift. That's a $1 million saving per year if rolled out across the hospital, but more importantly that creates two to three hours in every nursing shift for additional patient contact. Patients get more time with doctors and nurses, get better faster and are more satisfied," Morreale says.

Not only was the trial system left up and running, it also has been expanded to include the hospital's medical surgery unit. In addition, when the hospital moves all its wards into its planned new campus building, Morreale intends to use RFID wristbands throughout.

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