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U.K.'s Newcastle NHS Trust Adopts RFID to Help Track Patient Records

Since the deployment in February, the trust has tagged 250,000 files and conducted more than a million read events using a UHF RFID solution from 6PM Group.
By Claire Swedberg

The iFIT system was taken live at Newcastle in February of this year. After four weeks of operation, library staff members had attached Tageos RFID labels to 158,000 of the 1.6 million paper-only files. Each label was encoded with a unique ID number that was also printed on the label in bar-code form. That ID number is linked to the patient's ID in the iFIT software residing on the hospital's server, says Steve Wightman, 6PM's deputy chief executive officer. When a file arrives at a library to be put away, a staff member uses a handheld device to scan the file's bar code, and to then scan the unique ID number printed on the bar-code label on a shelf near where that worker is standing. The shelf ID number is then linked to that file in the software. If a library worker later needs to locate that file, Wightman says, he or she then simply looks up the shelf ID for that file in the software and proceeds to that shelf, "very much in the same way a modern logistics organization works."

This enables the trust to forego the numerical filing system, so that employees do not have to walk through the aisles when putting a file away. Rather, they can simply put it wherever they find space. "This has truly revolutionized our processes within the libraries," Elder says.

If a worker has any trouble finding a file where it was expected to be, a handheld RFID reader can be used to locate it on the shelf.

The system also tracks where files go when they leave the libraries. 6PM has installed 26 fixed RFID readers—the firm declines to name the make and model of the handheld or fixed reader being used—at the three locations, with two to four antennas installed with each of those readers. The interrogators are strategically deployed in and around the medical records libraries, as well as in mailrooms, the clinical coding area and the main outpatient departments. These areas, Elder explains, are the busiest departments within the trust, "and, therefore, we can track case notes as they move around these key areas, ensuring that they get to their destination on time."

Each time a file passes one of the fixed readers, that device captures the file label's unique ID and forwards it to the iFIT software, thereby updating the location status of that file. With the two to four antennas, the readers are able to send back data that also indicates the direction in which the file is moving, thus providing a clue regarding what department the file is headed to next. If a file has not been returned to the library and is needed by another health-care professional, personnel can take the handheld reader—known as the Go-Find Gun—walk to the area where the RFID file was last read by a portal reader, put the handheld in Geiger counter mode and begin walking around until it has been identified.

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