5 Innovative RFID Applications in the Healthcare Sector

By Sean Toohey

Modern hospitals are using smart technology to improve the quality of caregiving services.

Healthcare institutions must operate with accuracy and efficiency to ensure that patients and staff are appropriately supported.

From advanced security systems used to prevent intruders causing harm to accessible record keeping programs used to quickly communicate patient’s needs, modern hospitals use smart technology to improve the quality of caregiving services.

Of the numerous available technologies well-suited to these applications, RFID systems are commonly deployed as a cost effective, accurate and reliable way to transfer digital data and keep track of sensitive assets.

From intelligent record-keeping and asset-tracking systems to smart security installations, here are five innovative RFID applications in the healthcare sector.

1. Patient monitoring and record-keeping

RFID tags, which are integrated into patient-worn wristbands, play a crucial role in facilitating the management of online medical certificates, helping hospital staff locate specific patients and access their frequently updated personal records. Each tag contains essential data pertaining to individual patients, including their name, medical records and notable allergies.

As RFID tags continuously transmit radio signals to be picked up by a wireless receiver, hospital staffers are able to track the movement of tags around the premises to locate patients during their rounds.

This is particularly useful when caring for patients with memory issues, as staff will receive real-time updates to ensure that the individual remains in a safe location.

2. Adaptive access control

RFID door entry systems are an accurate, reliable and easily-scalable security solution used to manage property access in healthcare facilities.

Access readers are installed next to all interior and exterior doors, with staff issued personalized credentials stored in RFID cards or fobs. Doors will remain locked until a verified card is held in proximity to a nearby reader.

RFID access systems can be managed remotely when using a cloud-based system, allowing security staff to view live event logs, adjust credentials and revoke permissions if a card has been lost or stolen. Additionally, access rules can be applied to the system to ensure only authorized staff are able to enter high-security areas like private patient rooms and file-storage facilities.

3. Real-time equipment tracking

Tracking systems are commonly deployed in hospitals to ensure all medical equipment is appropriately sterilized, stored and maintained.

RFID tags attached to surgical instruments are used to provide live records of sterilization and use, reducing the likelihood of medical errors, with tags used to track assets in the hospital to help staff plan rounds.

RFID tags secured to medical machines and vehicles will communicate with a maintenance system used to indicate when specific pieces of equipment need to be serviced. Alerts can be programmed to warn staff of impending maintenance requirements, enabling staff to plan equipment rotation safely to minimize the chance of instruments failing or being unavailable.

 4. Pharmaceutical tracking and asset management

RFID tags integrated alongside asset tracking and management software are often used in hospitals to ensure pharmaceuticals and medicines are appropriately monitored.

Important information—such as expiration dates, stock levels and supply chain availability—will be stored within the system, with this data being updated in real-time as inventory levels are depleted.

Alerts can be programmed to warn staff of impending expiration dates for consumable and degradable items, including options to automatically reorder stock if inventory levels drop below a predetermined threshold if linked to a wider inventory management system.

5. Analytical insights and logistics 

As RFID tracking systems are able to continuously transmit data over an extended period of time, management staff can analyze how patients and staff use core facilities to accurately anticipate future needs.

Using data analysis software, teams can predict patient flow and equipment use to aid in the planning of inventory ordering and employee scheduling.

High-quality analytical insights can also be used to adjust treatment schedules, planned surgeries and employee workflows to make sure patients receive the highest quality care and that employees are suitably supported, with historic data helping to predict future needs.

Summary

RFID technology is widely used in healthcare facilities to improve the efficiency of caregiving services and ensure that patients and staff are protected from external threats. With the aid of accurate real-time data, staff can provide immediate assistance to patients, ensure tools and medicines are readily available and accurately predict future needs to improve services.

Sean Toohey is a freelance journalist and digital media specialist with extensive experience covering news, developments, and emerging trends in the healthcare industry. Currently focused on safety, security, and compliance with regards to modern healthcare institutions, Toohey’s work explores actionable ways to support patients and healthcare providers using smart technologies and advanced software solutions.