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Fort Hood to RFID-Tag Medical Records

With more than 150,000 soldiers and their dependents using the base's six health clinics, the Army is seeking a better system to track their medical files.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 01, 2006Tracking thousands of medical records at several different clinics spread across a region can be a daunting task for any health-care provider, but the job is made even tougher when there's a constant turnover of patients. That's the challenge the U.S. Army has had at its installation at Fort Hood, Texas. The nation's largest active-duty domestic military post, Fort Hood occupies 339 square miles and supports more than 150,000 soldiers.

Now, with the help of 3M's Safety and Security Systems division, the military is preparing to attach passive RFID tags to all medical files at the post's six clinics. RFID antennas will be placed on shelves in rooms housing the clinic's files, allowing medical personnel to know the date and time a file was checked out and by whom, as well as the date and time the file was checked back in and the specific clinic and shelf at which it is located.

Dave Erickson
The RFID project is expected to achieve some very basic—and much-needed—benefits, says Dave Erickson, a 3M specialist in advanced software systems, also serving as program manager and principal investigator for the Fort Hood project. "The Army wants to improve their efficiencies in health-care delivery. If the records are where they need to be at the time of treatment, that'll improve the quality of health care delivered, improve operational efficiencies, reduce risks to patients and facilitate regulatory compliance around record retention and other issues," Erickson says.

"The primary objective of this effort is to validate the expected benefits that RFID can bring to document management in the medical records space," Erickson explains. "The system is expected to be a cost-effective bridge to the planned computerized patient record (CPR) and provide immediate impact as the CPR is developed and rolled out over the next several years. The RIFD system would provide a cost-effective way to manage the historic paper-based record for many years to come and allow the CPR to focus on the future."

Leading the efforts to track Army medical records through RFID technology is the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), a unit of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC). The three-year contract, valued at $3.76 million, follows an earlier pilot 3M and the Army conducted for more than a year at Fort Hood, involving the tagging of records of approximately 10,000 soldiers and some of their dependents. The pilot's mission was to demonstrate the ability of RFID technology to inventory the medical record collection continuously and automatically while still on-shelf. The RFID system used for the pilot was based on Philips' 13.56 MHz I-Code technology and included RFID interrogator antennas deployed on shelving and 3M custom-designed value-added components.

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