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Japanese Hospital Trials UHF Patient Wristband

SATO, the wristband technology provider, is testing the new product with the hospital to confirm that it does not interfere with pacemakers or other implantable devices, while also viewing how it boosts efficiency and patient comfort.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 28, 2017

Japan's Mie University Hospital and automatic-identification technology company SATO are testing SATO's new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID wristband to ensure its safety with patient-implantable devices, as well as determine how the technology may improve staff efficiency and patient comfort. The wristband, which the company has been developing for the past year, is commercially available now, according to Hiroyuki Konuma, SATO Healthcare's president.

While SATO traditionally offered a high-frequency (HF) RFID-enabled wristband (the more common RFID frequency for bracelets, the company reports), it has been working on a UHF version to enable the simpler, more accurate data verification, without requiring a staff member to bring a reader within physical contact of a patient's wristband.

Mie University Hospital
While there are UHF RFID wristbands currently available on the market, Konuma says, their effectiveness can be compromised with the presence of liquid in the human body, making the read rate too low to be reliable. His company has been working to create a solution, he adds, and has developed the wristband with an RFID chip that responds well to interrogations in the presence of liquids. He declines to name the chip and inlay provider, but says the proprietary engineering in the wristband has made it possible for the tag to be read at a high rate, despite its proximity to the human body.

SATO Healthcare's Hiroyuki Konuma
The next step for the wristband, Konuma says, is to confirm that 920 MHz (250 mW) RFID transmissions from mobile readers do not affect the operation of pacemakers or other patient-implantable medical devices. To that end, it teamed up with one of its customers, Mie University Hospital, to launch a clinical study, which began in December 2016 and is slated to continue for two years.

"The first purpose is to establish that RFID doesn't affect the functionality of the medical devices," Konuma states, while the second goal focuses on learning how much simpler and more accurate the system makes the verification of patient identification, as well as the linkage of a patient with a particular medication, easy and comfortable for that patient and for nurses. The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications has already found that RFID transmissions by handheld readers do not affect medical device function, he notes; however, the company sought to confirm those results.

The hospital is now providing a SATO UHF RFID wristband to every patient who arrives at the facility. Those 18 years of age or older who have an implantable device, and who consent to participate, are also having their devices tested at the end of their stay, in order to confirm that those devices have not been impacted by the bracelet.

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