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Tamper-Resistant RFID Infant-Tracking System Improves Security

Waukesha Hospital switched to RF Technologies' SafePlace system to ensure identify bracelets can't be removed, and to identify which patient sounded the alarm.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 27, 2008Wisconsin's Waukesha Memorial Hospital, part of regional health-care provider ProHealth Care, has completed one year with an infant and pediatric RFID security system that alerts staff members if a patient's ID tag is tampered with, or if that tag approaches an exit. The system, which replaces an older RFID infant-tracking solution, improves security and enables employees to determine which patient triggered an alarm, says Roberta Sonnentag, the hospital's clinical manager of labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum (LDRP) and gynecology services.

The previous system did not alert the hospital if a ID tag was removed, nor did it identify specific patients. Thus, if an alarm was sounded as a result of a pediatric patient approaching an exit or elevator, workers were unable to determine which patient had done so, only which exit or elevator that person was approaching. The greatest concern, Sonnentag says, was that the hospital could not detect when a security bracelet was being removed. Patients recognized that weakness in the system as well, asking the staff, "What would happen if I took this off?"

Therefore, about two years ago, Waukesha Memorial began reviewing its options. The staff investigated systems offered by three vendors, ultimately choosing the SafePlace Pediatric and Infant Security Solution, provided by RF Technologies, because of its band-cutting technology—which transmits an alert if a band is tampered with—and because RF Technologies offered what it deemed the best customer service. "All of the systems had sensors that would work," Sonnentag says, but RF Technologies also offered training and follow-up customer service.

The system was installed in the summer of 2007. "RF Technologies sent its staff and trainers on the site," Sonnentag states, "and they stayed with us for two or three weeks." During that period of time, the company set up the system, trained the staff on its use and provided troubleshooting as it was launched.

The system consists of RF Technologies RFID interrogators deployed throughout the women's and children's wing of the hospital, located on the building's third floor. There are 33 LDRP single rooms in that wing, as well as eight pediatric beds and 19 neo-natal beds. Sonnentag declines to provide the exact number, or locations, of those readers, but indicates they are deployed to locate RFID tags throughout the pediatric, obstetrics and infant intensive-care units, as well as to sound alerts if the tags approach an exit or elevator.

New pediatric patients and infants all receive an RF Technologies dual-frequency RFID tag that transmits at 262 kHz to interrogators located in doorways, and at 318 MHz to readers deployed in hallways and other locations. Patients checking in are instructed as to the purpose of the tag, Sonnentag says, and instructed not to remove it. The hospital staff then inputs data about the patient, which is linked in a back-end server, managed by the hospital, to the unique ID number on the RFID tag.

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