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Czech Hospital Using HF RFID to Track Chemotherapy Drugs

The Masaryk Oncological Institute hopes to reduce the likelihood of theft and human error, since the drugs are expensive and can cause severe harm if administered incorrectly.
By Rhea Wessel
In a room outfitted with safety equipment designed for working with dangerous chemicals, a hospital pharmacist adds the drug to an IV bag filled with a sterile solution. This enables the pharmacist to administer the patient's medicine intravenously. The staff member wears a protective suit and mask, with hands inserted through airtight openings in an apparatus called an isolator. The isolator looks somewhat like a baby incubator, and serves as a safe and clean environment for processing sterile drugs by controlling airflow and pressure.

Working within the isolator, the employee takes an RFID-tagged IV bag and inserts the proper amount of cancer medication into it. Embedded in adhesive labels applied to the bags, the tags operate at 13.56 MHz and comply with the ISO 15693 standard. The patient's name and other basic information are printed on the label. The pharmacist performing the work wears a ring-shaped Tagsys passive 13.56 MHz Nano-Size tag on one finger. After mixing the medication with the IV solution, the pharmacist reads the tags on the IV bag, the ID ring and the vial, using an interrogator installed inside the isolator. The bag is removed from the isolator, and another reading is taken when the worker passes the IV bag through its output hatch.

The pharmacist performing the work wears a ring-shaped passive tag on one finger.

Fixed and mobile readers in the application are supplied by RightTag and ACG. The RightTag handheld readers are employed at points where users need to read several tags simultaneously. ACG readers, mounted on desks and in the isolator, are utilized for reading one tag at a time. After testing a number of tags for RF interference, IBM decided to go with passive, HF tags complying with the Icode and/or ISO 15693 standards. IBM also implemented a Sato RFID printer, to print labels for the IV bags, as well as IBM WebSphere RFID Premises Server, a type of RFID middleware.

The information collected via RFID allows the hospital to track the specific substance used in preparing the medication, as well as the amount of the substance used, the name of the pharmacist mixing the drugs and the time the work was done.

Later, when the rest of the RFID implementation is deployed at the institute, the RFID tag worn by each patient will be read before any medication is given, confirming electronically that the substance is going to the intended recipient. The nurse administering the medicine will also scan the RFID tag embedded in her ID badge, enabling hospital administrators to know which nurses worked with which patients. The choice of RFID tags used for the patient and nurse IDs has not yet been finalized, though they are expected to operate at 13.56 MHz and comply with ISO 15693.

Jan Rydval, an IT consultant for IBM Global Services, says there haven't yet been any performance problems, since the application is used by pharmacy workers only. When the RFID system is expanded throughout the hospital, IBM plans to add additional server power.

In a prepared statement, Rostislav Vyzula, a professor at the institute, said, "The RFID solution from IBM allows us to go a step further than just tracking medication. It allows us better manage the medication of patients taking the cancer medication Zytostatika." Vyzula and other institute staff could not be reached for further comment.

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