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RFID Prevention of Wrong-Site Surgery Gains Momentum

RFID's adoption by the healthcare industry made progress this week with the announcement by AMTSystems of new pilot programs for its SurgiChip product.
Apr 28, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 28, 2005—RFID's adoption by the healthcare industry made progress this week with the announcement by AMTSystems of new pilot programs for its SurgiChip product. The SurgiChip, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November, uses an RFID-based verification system to "prevent wrong-site, wrong-procedure and wrong-patient surgery." Industry analysts estimate that between five and eight surgeries per month are performed in which an incorrect part of the body is mistakenly operated upon. While only a very small percentage of the total number of monthly surgeries, those few mistakes can cause dreadful and traumatic outcomes.

The Palm Beach Orthopedic Institution of Palm Beach, Florida, is one site where the SurgiChip is being used successfully to prevent such mistakes. The hospital has performed about 300 surgeries since implementation of the system a year ago. The cost of SurgiChip falls between $6 and $9 per surgery for the first year, then decreases to $3 the second year. AMTSystems provides the software and integration, while the RFID printers, labels, and associated hardware are products of Illinois-based Zebra Technologies.

Healthcare is an area of increasing focus and innovation among RFID technology providers. In niches like the SurgiChip's, RFID offers extremely high-value opportunities to protect against human error. In other cases, RFID is a way to provide asset tracking for the expensive equipment and instrumentation found throughout hospitals. Patient-tracking is another area of interest, in which an RFID tag is worn that not only signals the patient's whereabouts but also includes encoded medical history information that can be scanned with an RFID reader-equipped PDA. A doctor can then immediately and accurately access the patient's medical history. A related concept is that of the controversial VeriChip, the human-implantable RFID tag that includes an ID number by which an unconscious or otherwise unidentifiable patient can be looked up in a master medical history database.

The field is early yet, and the solutions rather immature. Hospitals are notoriously conservative spenders, so selling them on new-fangled technology is only possible through the demonstration of very compelling benefits. Regardless, there is reason to be optimistic: a report came out just last week predicting that "RFID and its related technologies in the hospital marketplace will skyrocket to $8.8 billion by 2010."

Read the SurgiChip release from AMTSystems
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