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Toronto-Area Hospital Kicks Off Asset-Tracking Pilot

At Hamilton Health Sciences's acute-care center at McMaster University, the nursing ward is using active RFID tags to track IV pumps and other high-value mobile equipment.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Nov 27, 2006Hamilton Health Sciences, a family of hospitals serving 2.2 million residents in the Canadian province of Ontario, has begun a small-scale RFID technology pilot at its acute-care center on the McMaster University campus in Hamilton. The hospital and lab began developing the pilot earlier this year, after Pankaj Sood, the center's commercialization manager, started reaching out to local businesses he believed could benefit from RFID technology.

McMaster recently launched the McMaster RFID Applications Lab (MRAL) (see Show Report: RFID Journal LIVE! Canada. The pilot project is a result of collaboration between Hamilton and the lab. MRAL is Canada's first major academic RFID research and consulting facility. It provides applications-oriented RFID research and development, through collaboration between members of McMaster's academic community and those in the business arena, and addresses social-policy issues that can result from RFID technology deployments.

EPCglobal Canada and a number of technology companies support the lab. These firms include Hewlett-Packard, Deloitte, Sun Microsystems, and RFID technology vendors IPICO, RF Code and Lost Recovery Network (LRNI).

"We had heard from a number of folks who were talking about RFID, and we were reading about potential applications [of the technology]," says Bill MacLeod, Hamilton's vice president of research and corporate development. MacLeod's responsibilities include assisting in physical planning and redevelopment projects at the hospitals. "We thought [this pilot] was a good way to get in and learn about the technology and [determine] the business case for using RFID. And that is what the MRAL offers."

MacLeod's first task in helping launch the pilot was to identify a department within a Hamilton hospital where staff were interested in learning and testing the technology, along with an application that could benefit that department's staff and the hospital's overall operation. He found both in the nursing unit at an acute-care center that happens to be on the McMaster campus, not far from the MRAL building.

"The nurse manager of the unit was keen on learning about the technology," says MacLeod. "The manager knew the pilot was going to be a learning experience for the unit, and nursing staff would need to be involved." The nursing unit, along with Deloitte representatives and MacLeod and Sood's team at the MRAL, decided they would focus the trial on tracking intravenous pumps and other high-value mobile devices.

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