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U.K. Hospitals Testing Passive Ceiling-Mounted RFID for Real-Time Location

Harland Simon has completed a pilot of a PervasID reader as part of its RFID Discovery solution, to provide real-time location within such areas as clinical engineering departments.
By Claire Swedberg

The Space Ranger reader, featuring eight antenna ports, was installed in the ceiling tiles of NHF Forth Valley and Addenbrooke within each facility's clinical engineering department. At each site, four antennas were installed in the four corners of the read area, with the other four antennas being installed in the center. "It was very easy to install," James states. "You just pop the antenna above the ceiling tile."

The reader captured tags within about an 11-meter by 7- meter (36-foot by 23-foot) area about 2.5 meters (8.3 feet) high. Items with passive UHF RFID tags attached to them were then moved through the room in which the readers were mounted, and Harland Simon and the hospitals measured the results. They were able to track items such as infusion pumps, syringes and any other devices that must cycle through the clinical engineering department for servicing and maintenance.

PervasID's Sithamparanathan Sabesan
Space Ranger, says Sithamparanathan Sabesan, PervasID's CEO, "reduces costs, requires less space and simplifies installation." Historically, he adds, the adoption of passive RFID hasn't met health-care industry expectations due to low read rates and high costs. "Space Ranger system... delivers an unparalleled 99%-plus detection accuracy over a wide area and in real time, which is so vital in the health-care industry. This enables hospitals to track medical devices, medical records and patient flow with a high degree of accuracy."

While a cart with a built-in RFID reader (Harland Simon uses Impinj's Speedway Revolution readers) can capture tags within the approximate same range, James explains, it must be in motion to accomplish the kind of read rate achieved by the Space Ranger reader.

The system is now being deployed by Imperial Healthcare, in London, which intends to track 60,000 assets across five sites. The hospital has not yet decided where the Space Ranger readers would be installed; however, James cites several departments in which the technology may provide immediate benefits, such as the clinical engineering and emergency departments.

In the meantime, NHS Forth Valley and Addenbrooke are still using the Space Ranger readers in their clinical engineering departments. The data captured from the tag reads is forwarded to the RFID Discovery software, enabling users to view which items are in the department, as well as when, including how long they are there, and when there may be delays or items in the department or arriving at the department.

The technology could also ensure that no item is used on a patient if it is due to be serviced at the clinical engineering department, provided that an RFID tag is read by staff members prior to such a use. According to James, the system would also work well with wristband or badge tags for patients or personnel in surgical suites and other areas. In addition, Harland Simon intends to use the Space Ranger reader as part of its Vero Solutions brand for the manufacturing and logistics industries.

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