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Can RFID Track Hospital Equipment in Real Time?
Could we trace objects moving from one department to another using an RFID tracking system?
Numerous hospitals around the world have been deploying active RFID-based real-time location systems (RTLS) for this very reason. A battery-powered tag would be affixed to each piece of equipment, and the tag's ID number would be associated with a specific piece of equipment—say, an oxygen pump with serial number 123456—with the tag set to broadcast its unique ID at certain intervals. You could have the tag broadcast every two seconds if you needed real-time information, or every five minutes or so. The longer the interval between broadcasts, the longer the battery life will be. Readers could be set up throughout the hospital to receive the signals.
There are also systems that can communicate via Wi-Fi access points. Through a variety of methods, such as triangulation, software can determine the location of a piece of tagged equipment within about 10 feet. Location data would then be displayed on a map of your hospital. With some systems, you can set up zones and alerts, so you could have the system issue an alert to personnel each time, for example, that a piece of equipment was put in a utility closet (indicating the need for it to be cleaned or serviced).
Staff members can also log onto a secure portal and view the locations of assets in real time. So if a nurse needed a wheelchair, she could see if any were in the room in which wheelchairs were stored. Such a system would not only save a lot of time, but it could also increase asset utilization rates and lower the amount of money spent to rent or purchase assets.
Some of the leading suppliers of real-time location systems for hospitals, such as AeroScout, will present at the RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, being held in Orlando, Fla., on Ap. 8-10. Kimberly Brayley, the head of RTLS for the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), will deliver a keynote address at the event, regarding the world's largest RTLS deployment. The VA is deploying a system across all of its hospitals and clinics (see Veterans Affairs Implementing RTLS Across Seven Midwest Hospitals).
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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