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Can the Use of RFID Be Strengthened in the Health-Care Industry?

Improving and strengthening patient care with well-maintained and regularly tested RFID tags could make all the difference for a safer environment.
By Andre Gwilliam
Sep 17, 2017

Radio frequency identification is a technology that uses radio waves to identify individuals or objects automatically. This could be by storing a serial number that's unique to a person or object, or a microchip attached to an antenna, which is known as an RFID tag.

It can be used in many real-world applications, such as inventory tracking in the logistics industry, or in retail, or even to track the locations of employees to enhance floor plans. One industry in which the use of RFID is key to operations is in health care, allowing medical personnel to spend less time locating equipment and supplies and more time with their patients. However, we should arguably be looking at ways in which to continually strengthen the technology, especially in an industry as important as health care.

How RFID Is Currently Used in the Health-Care Sector
RFID tags are a passive technology and do not require power for each individual tag, so it makes them incredibly useful in health care. Considering how small the technology can be, it can be used in numerous vital applications in that sector.

RFID tags make it easier for medical equipment to be tracked and traced, enabling hospital employees to easily locate equipment when it is required urgently, thereby enhancing the safety of patients. The technology can also be used for inventory and minimizing misplaced equipment.

The automatic data entry in RFID technology can help to eliminate any medical mistakes, as hospital laboratories can use it to track tissue or fluid samples. This helps to reduce the incidence of errors from data entry or mishandling. The technology can be used for patient identification, with ID cards or wrist or ankle bands that have the ability to track vulnerable patients. It can also help medical personnel locate each other, since it informs them if a colleague is attending a patient and should not be interrupted.

RFID in Radiology
One key health-care area that is using RFID technology to streamline systems is in radiology. Some hospitals are taking innovative approaches to inventory management, sewing tags into x-ray vests and other protective equipment so they can be located quickly in the event of an inspection. Essentially, the RFID technology helps them shift from paper-based systems to electronic ones, making records more accurate and equipment easier to find.

An RFID system can remove human factors from the workflow, avoiding any mistakes from periodic manual counts. It can store and track inventory assets, such as catheters, coils, stents and other implantable devices—a cost-effective way to manage their supplies.

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