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Maryland's Medical Examiner to Track Human Bodies Via RFID

After using EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags and readers to track paperwork for one year, the organization expects to soon begin utilizing RFID wristbands to track the decedents as well.
By Claire Swedberg
Now, 12 months later, the file-tracking system has proven its ability to save time, Eagle says, and to help workers locate paperwork quickly if another staff member or visitor needs it. Based on this result, he says he's confident that the system will be able to provide valuable information to the staff regarding the locations of corpses in real time, as well as historically, while it was stored within the facility. By early 2012, the agency expects to attach a wristband containing a UHF RFID tag to each body that it receives. Eagle and his coworkers have already begun testing the wristbands, by wearing them around the office.

With the RFID system in place to track decedents, not only would employees have a more accurate record of how long a particular body remained unrefrigerated, but the system would also provide information to physicians. For example, a doctor would be able to log onto the system in order to view a list of which bodies were in the cooling unit at a given time, indicating the quantity required for examination. The historic data would provide a record for transplant patients receiving organs, verifying that the organs were viable, based on the length of time that the body was located in the refrigeration room.

The agency plans to acquire about 40 UHF wristband tags—since that is the approximate number of bodies that the agency typically has on site on any given day. When a decedent has been examined—and when the organs have been removed, in the case of donors—the wristband would be removed so that it could then be reused. Which vendor's tag will be utilized for this purpose has yet to be determined.

Eagle says he likes the technology, and that he has spoken with the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS), to suggest that it incorporate the technology for living patients brought in from accident scenes. The tags could then be read within an ambulance, at the hospital and, if a patient did not survive, once more at the medical examiner's officer. However, he says, no decision about this has yet been finalized.

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