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Jena University Hospital Prescribes RFID to Reduce Medication Errors

The German hospital is beginning a pilot designed to track individual antibiotic prescriptions from the pharmacy to the patient.
By Rhea Wessel
Jun 01, 2007After more than a year of preparation, Germany's Jena University Hospital will launch a pilot this month to track medication for patients in the intensive care unit (ICU). The pilot will use high-frequency (HF) RFID tags to track antibiotics from the point of dispensing in the hospital's pharmacy until administration to patients. About 150 tags per day will be used on medication for 25 patients.

Jena designed the system together with SAP and Intel Solution Services, based on SAP's NetWeaver software and its Auto-ID Infrastructure platform. The hospital, which has more than 1,000 beds, is implementing the tracking system to improve the efficiency of its treatment process and enhance drug-handling safety—that is, to ensure patients get the correct doses of the right drugs (see German Hospital Expects RFID to Eradicate Drug Errors).

Martin J. Specht
In mid-2006, the hospital's RFID project team began selecting hardware vendors and integrating the RFID system with its patient information database and other back-end software. The implementation was initially slated for completion in October 2006, but the hospital has since made several changes to the project.

For example, says Martin Specht, formerly a head doctor in the hospital's anesthesiology and intensive care clinics and now the head of the electronic data processing division, Jena had intended to use UHF tags so it could perform bulk tag reads on medications. However, since many medications are liquids—which can interfere with RF signals—read rates were not as high as the hospital had hoped for. The project team then tested tags operating at high frequency and decided to employ HF tags instead of UHF. Using HF tags from UPM Raflatac, Specht says, the hospital has now achieved accurate reads on individual items 98 percent of the time.

The hospital had designed the RFID system to work in conjunction with its in-house transport system, a network of conveyor belts linking various medical units. That, however, would have required RFID portals to be positioned over the conveyor belts, which Specht says would have been too costly to permit expansion of the RFID system throughout the hospital. "Using portal readers," he explains, "would have meant we had to, in the end, equip three doors—i.e., the three possible entrances to the intensive-care ward."

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