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RFID Tracks Blood at Australia's Liverpool Hospital

NSW Health Pathology, which operates the hospital's blood lab, is using the technology to determine how long blood products remain outside of refrigeration, and to ensure that no incorrect matches are made and no spoiled products are used.
By Claire Swedberg

A blood bank employee removes the cross-matched blood from the laboratory refrigerator, then attaches an RFID tag to the bag after associating the blood, the tag and the patient in the Smart Tracker software. That data is then stored in the software.

Bags of blood are dispensed from the lab by scanning the bags' tags via a low-frequency (LF) RFID reader and transporting them to the hospital's surgical ward, where a staff member uses his or her ID badge to access the locked RFID refrigerator and place them inside. If blood is required, the fridge prompts the theater personnel to enter the patient's unique medical record number, and to select the patient presented on screen after confirming that the person's name and date of birth match. The worker then scans his or her RFID staff access tag to unlock the refrigerator and remove the appropriate blood. Once the door closes, the unit's built-in RFID reader interrogates the tags, confirms which bags of blood have been removed and creates a record of who removed the blood and when. If the wrong blood is removed, then the user receives an alert.

The Smart Tracker software determines how long the blood has been out of refrigeration and alerts the user if it has been out for more than 30 minutes.
If any blood is not used on that patient, the theater staff member goes through a process to return the remainder to the refrigerator. The software determines how long the blood has been out of refrigeration and alerts the user if more than 30 minutes have passed.

The bags are later sent back to the blood bank, where the tags are read again as they are put back into refrigeration. A record of all actions taken with each bag of blood is then displayed, so that the staff can decide whether to return it to inventory or quarantine it for possible discard.

With the RFID-based system, the blood bank can be assured that only properly stored blood bags are returned to inventory and are available for safe reuse.

"I can now say, with some certainty, that any pack accepted for return to inventory has been properly stored," Greenfield states. "I can review the scan history and see exactly what happened, who was involved and when."

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