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RFID Documents Surgery at Huntsville Hospital

The Alabama facility is using passive HF tags to verify a patient's identity and document the surgical process, from admission to discharge.
By Beth Bacheldor
At Huntsville Hospital, patients are tagged with an RFID-enabled sticker when they arrive in the surgical department. The sticker's tag is encoded with unique ID number that is then correlated in the Aionex database with that patient's name and other information. As the patient moves to each stage of surgical process, nurses or other caregivers scan the tag, and the tag ID number is automatically entered into a patient kiosk-comprised of an embedded CPU, a touch-screen monitor, a Wi-Fi card and an RFID scanner, Cathcart explains. The kiosk compares the patient's name with the information associated with the tag ID. "The kiosk will generate an error if the RFID tag and the patient identified do not match," she says.

Once in pre-op, a patient's tag is again read by an anesthesiologist, who also uses a tethered handheld interrogator to read his own RFID-enabled key fob, documenting the pre-op visit. All scans are time-stamped, Cathcart says. Caregivers can view the status of each process on large LCD monitors stationed throughout the surgical department. The patient's tag is read when entering and leaving the OR and the PACU, to document the time the patient spends in each area.

Since using the system, Huntsville Hospital says OR room utilization has become more efficient, and staff members now know in real-time the location and status of a patient. As the hospital begins using more of the reporting functions, it can use the system to help it analyze how well the processes are flowing. "We anticipate improved room turnover times," Cathcart says.

The staff at Huntsville Hospital values the system, particularly because they can easily check on the status of patients via the electronic boards. Moreover, the system is helping the hospital document its clinical operations and keep patient surgeries on schedule.

"We definitely want to expand our options and grow the system," says Cathcart. For example, Huntsville Hospital wants to integrate the platform with its clinical documentation system so the RFID data can automatically populate that system, as well as expand it to the surgeons' offices for scheduling surgeries, among other things.

Several other the hospital's departments have also expressed interest in the application, Cathcart says.

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