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With Thousands of Paper Records to Manage, U.K. Hospital Gets Help From RFID

After adopting 6PM's iFIT solution, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust reduced the hours needed to retrieve and put away patient files by 80 percent.
By Claire Swedberg

The iFIT system reduces the number of hours that hospital personnel spend putting away or locating files by 80 percent (based on the initial results at Surrey Hospital), Wightman says. The solution also frees up 10 to 15 percent of library space, he adds, since files can now be placed in the most convenient shelf location, rather than alphabetically.

Most hospitals store each patient's paper records, whether current or archival, within a dedicated storage area, and a staff of 20 to 30 workers manage those records, retrieving them for health-care personnel and returning them to the shelves when they are returned. If a file is not returned to the records storage area, an employee must walk throughout the hospital searching for it, or make phone calls and send e-mails, if they, in fact, determine that it is missing. With the iFIT solution, a user attaches a FileTrail RFID tag to a patient's file and scans the bar code printed on the front of that tag, in order to input its ID number into the system. That ID is then matched to that particular patient's records in the CareSolutions software. Each time a worker moves the file, he or she utilizes a handheld reader or bar-code scanner to update the file's status.

Hospital staff members use a Motorola MC3190-Z handheld reader to track the locations of documents on shelves, or elsewhere within the hospital.

The process of placing a cart full of untagged files (there are typically about 100 files per cart) onto shelves can take approximately three hours, but the iFIT system is designed to complete that same task in a matter of minutes. That's because the files can be checked in via a bar-code scanner and then be placed on the nearest or most convenient shelf. Users then scan the bar code above that shelf, thereby creating a record of that file's location.

The system, Wightman explains, not only makes putting the files away faster, but also makes it nearly impossible for unauthorized staff members (such as a health-care worker) to simply walk into the records area and help themselves to a file stored alphabetically, based on the patient's last name. Since the files are not shelved alphabetically, any unauthorized individual not equipped with the RFID reader, or without access to location details in the software, would have difficulty pinpointing a specific patient's file. The iFIT solution also saves space, he says, since empty shelves can immediately be filled, rather than requiring a staff member to search for an appropriate empty space in an alphabetically arranged shelving system.

USER COMMENTS

kofi nti 2013-12-03 01:57:33 PM
I like this system. However, I would like to ask, since there the files can now be put anywhere, can there be a system where the rfid reader can locate the specific tag it is communicating with, by throwing a light (infrared or laser light) directly onto the tag. are there readers like that? I am just becoming curious, because i am interested in developing something that works that way.

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