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Four Italian Hospitals Use RFID to Share Blood and Monitor Transfusion

To help avert errors, the system uses EPC Gen 2 tags to not only identify patients and bags of blood, but also the staff members who draw samples and administer transfusions.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 28, 2008In early December, four Italian hospitals began piloting an RFID-based system to track all steps of the transfusion process, starting with taking a sample of the patient's blood, and ending with the blood transfusion.

The participating hospitals consist of Policlinico Universitario Tor Vergata, in Rome; Ospedale Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza, in San Giovanni Rotondo; Azienda Ospedialiera Policlinico Universitario di Bari; and Azienda USL 3 Pistoia. The pilot participants are using 3RFID's Blood Transfusion System (BTS), which includes EPC Gen 2 RFID hardware desktop and handheld interrogators, tags and software.

Human errors are a critical concern for blood transfusions. In the process of drawing donated blood, transporting it and administering it to a patient, a mistake could have lethal results. "If nobody is aware of the error, the wrong bag is transfused to the patient, and he will suffer severe health damage or, at worst, death," says Giuseppe Ancona, 3RFID's CEO.

"It's very important to identify who does what—to improve security and individual responsibility," says Ancona. With the BTS system, the identities of the staff members drawing and administering the blood are input and stored with other data.

With the pilot, a patient checking into one of the hospitals is given an ID bracelet with an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag that stores the unique ID number linked to that patient's data on the hospital's back-end system. That data includes the patient's health records and a photo. If a transfusion is needed, a sample of the patient's blood is drawn into a test tube, and an EPC Gen 2 RFID label encoded with the patient's unique ID number is attached to that test tube. A similarly encoded EPC RFID label is affixed to the blood request document, and spare RFID tags for blood bags, also encoded with the patient's ID number, are sent with it.

Once the patient's blood type is determined, bags filled the appropriate blood type are taken from storage and the RFID labels encoded with the patient's ID number are attached to the bags. When the transfusion is conducted, a hospital worker scans the patient's wristband tag and the blood bags' tags to confirm that the blood is the right match. The staff member who conducts the transfusion also must scan the RFID tag embedded in his or her own ID badge. That worker's data is then linked to the patient and transfusion to set up a permanent record in the hospital database as to who conducted the transfusion and when.

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