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German Hospital Expands Bed-Tagging Project

Bielefeld City Clinic will use RFID to track beds and mattresses as they move through an automated washing system, to make sure they're properly cleaned and to cut down on unnecessary procedures.
By Rhea Wessel
Oct 30, 2007The Bielefeld City Clinics, a public hospital in northern Germany, is moving into the second phase of a test designed to use radio frequency identification to expedite the cleaning of beds.

Working with Siemens IT Solutions and Services and bed maker Joh. Stiegelmeyer GmbH & Co., the hospital carried out the first phase of the test from June 2006 until early this year. Now, the partners plan to expand the application to additional wards so they can collect enough data to calculate how much money the hospital would save by using RFID to track all of its beds. Before the tests were conducted, no tracking system was in place.

Germany's Bielefeld City Clinics is testing an RFID system that tracks hospital beds during the cleaning process.
Thomas Jell, who heads RFID projects for Siemens IT Solutions and Services, says his company implemented a similar project at Inselspital (the University of Bern Hospital) in Switzerland: From November 2005 to September 2006, Inselspital—Switzerland's oldest and largest university hospital—tagged 1,600 beds and mattresses. The facility believes it could save approximately 200,000 Swiss francs ($171,000) each year by using the RFID application. Based on the proof-of-concept, Jell says he believes the Bielefeld hospital could achieve an even higher return on its investment than the one in Bern, though he declines to reveal further details. Inselspital, meanwhile, is considering a full-scale application that would tag every bed and mattress in the hospital.

During phase two of the Bielefeld project, beds and mattresses in at least two new wards will be outfitted with RFID tags. A business-card-sized RFID tag will be slipped into a plastic pocket on each mattress, while each bed will carry a tag inside a protective plastic casing mounted near the foot of the bed, on a platform support. The casing will keep the tag from being damaged if a bed runs into a wall or bumps an elevator door, while also keeping water and soap away from the transponder during the cleaning process. A plastic label will cover the mattress chip. Stiegelmeyer (which manufactures the beds) will apply tags to the beds and mattresses before delivering them to Bielefeld.

Siemens is supplying passive UHF 869 MHz RFID tags for the application. The tags comply with the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard, and are encoded only with a unique identification number. Mattress tags cost about €0.50 ($0.72) apiece, Jell says, while beds tags cost between €1 and €2 ($1.44 and $2.87) due to the expense of the plastic cover. Siemens is also providing the interrogator antennas used in the application.

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