Can the Use of RFID Be Strengthened in the Health-Care Industry?

By Andre Gwilliam

Improving and strengthening patient care with well-maintained and regularly tested RFID tags could make all the difference for a safer environment.

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Radio frequency identification is a technology that uses radio waves to identify individuals or objects automatically. This could be by storing a serial number that’s unique to a person or object, or a microchip attached to an antenna, which is known as an RFID tag.

It can be used in many real-world applications, such as inventory tracking in the logistics industry, or in retail, or even to track the locations of employees to enhance floor plans. One industry in which the use of RFID is key to operations is in health care, allowing medical personnel to spend less time locating equipment and supplies and more time with their patients. However, we should arguably be looking at ways in which to continually strengthen the technology, especially in an industry as important as health care.

How RFID Is Currently Used in the Health-Care Sector
RFID tags are a passive technology and do not require power for each individual tag, so it makes them incredibly useful in health care. Considering how small the technology can be, it can be used in numerous vital applications in that sector.

RFID tags make it easier for medical equipment to be tracked and traced, enabling hospital employees to easily locate equipment when it is required urgently, thereby enhancing the safety of patients. The technology can also be used for inventory and minimizing misplaced equipment.

The automatic data entry in RFID technology can help to eliminate any medical mistakes, as hospital laboratories can use it to track tissue or fluid samples. This helps to reduce the incidence of errors from data entry or mishandling. The technology can be used for patient identification, with ID cards or wrist or ankle bands that have the ability to track vulnerable patients. It can also help medical personnel locate each other, since it informs them if a colleague is attending a patient and should not be interrupted.

RFID in Radiology
One key health-care area that is using RFID technology to streamline systems is in radiology. Some hospitals are taking innovative approaches to inventory management, sewing tags into x-ray vests and other protective equipment so they can be located quickly in the event of an inspection. Essentially, the RFID technology helps them shift from paper-based systems to electronic ones, making records more accurate and equipment easier to find.

An RFID system can remove human factors from the workflow, avoiding any mistakes from periodic manual counts. It can store and track inventory assets, such as catheters, coils, stents and other implantable devices—a cost-effective way to manage their supplies.

Safety Checkers When Using RFID
So, when RFID technology is incorporated at hospitals and medical facilities, it can be a cost-effective and time-saving exercise that frees up wasted time and allows medical employees to spend more time with their patients, providing more effective health care.

However, despite RFID being an important part of tracking equipment, samples and patients in the health-care industry, it’s not invulnerable. As we can see from the recent NHS hacks in the United Kingdom, security should remain a key consideration around the world when it comes to the health-care industry. Although the breaches were not related to RFID technology, it does not hurt to make regular checks, ensuring the security and effectiveness of your equipment.

It has been recently suggested that devices such as insulin pumps and defibrillators can, indeed, be hacked. Leading companies, alongside the likes of Essentia, will be looking to continually improve the safety and security of their equipment. It is advised that businesses that utilize life-saving machines should look to manufacturers of testing equipment.

Scheduling regular checks of your RFID system by using testing equipment, such as that available from leading supplier MCS Test, could cover your company. The safety of your equipment and data should be paramount, especially with so much confidential information stored at medical facilities and hospitals. By using such test equipment, you can make sure your technology is up and running correctly, so you can get on with providing exceptional care to your patients.

According to MCS Test’s Michael Gwynne, “With RFID technology crucial for accurate diagnoses, locating equipment and saving time, allowing health-care staff to provide more effective care is crucial in protecting yourself against any potential security breaches. We regularly look to supply extremely thorough versatile equipment, for users who are working in development, whether that be production- or installation-focused, or for those servicing radio frequency systems.”

At a time of technological uncertainty, we are relying more than ever before on the strength and safety of our equipment. Improving and strengthening your patient care with well-maintained and regularly tested RFID tags, through such leading providers, could make all the difference for a safer environment.

Andre Gwilliam is a freelance writer working toward a future aim of running his own writers company. He writes across a variety of subjects that are close to the heart of the U.K. economy, including property, investments, business logistics and market trends. Andre has been writing for the past three years, having graduated with a degree in English literature and creative writing. He is open to collaborations to benefit his growing portfolio.