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RFID-Enabled Journal Helps Track Pain

Meridian Health is piloting a system it helped develop that has an active RFID tag that logs a patient's reported pain at home, as well as the effectiveness of any medication he or she takes to reduce discomfort.
By Claire Swedberg
Beginning this week, Elliot says, Meridian Health will begin offering the system in patients' homes. A patient must have a PC and an Internet connection, she notes. In this case, the individual downloads the Impak Health Journal software onto his or her own PC, and then uses a USB cord to plug in the reader (which measures approximately 2.5 inches by 1 inch).


Sandra Elliot, Meridian Health's director for consumer technology and service development
The patient can place the journal directly onto the reader at regular intervals, and—just as occurred at the physician's office—the tag ID number and stored data is then captured by the interrogator and forwarded to the software on the PC. The PC will send that information via the Internet to a server hosted by Meridian Health, where it can be viewed by the appropriate health-care provider. In the event of an unusual result, the software can be instructed to issue an alert, either as a pop-up on the Meridian employee's screen, or as an e-mail or text message to a family member or home-care provider.

Meridian Health intends to continue increasing the number of participants from the initial 22 to about 200, all of whom will be offered the home reader option. In October, the system is expected to be permanently deployed—initially for sufferers of chronic back and cancer-related pain, and then for arthritis and fibromyalgia patients.

In the future, Elliot says, Impak may also offer versions of the journal that test blood for sugar or cholesterol levels, with the card hardware measuring those levels and then transmitting that information to the hospital's server over the NFC reader.

Impak plans to market the solution to other health-care providers, Elliot says, for use in pain management and health screenings. It also intends to offer an RFID-enabled food journal for those attempting to lose weight under a physician's guidance. However, she says, before any of the versions are marketed, Impak wants to study the results of the existing pilot and determine if the presentation of questions and responses is effective and comprehensible for patients. Thus far, Baker says, the pilot participants find the electronic health journal easier to use than manually writing notes via pen and paper, both because it requires only pressing buttons rather than writing, and due to the clear and simple nature of the questions. Most patients involved in the pilot are elderly, in their late-eighties or nineties.

In 2006, Cypak participated in a pilot in which its battery-powered RFID tags were embedded within medication blister packs in order to monitor patients' compliance with drug prescriptions (see Novartis Trial Shows RFID Can Boost Patient Compliance).

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