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Finnish Hospital Deploys RFID in Three Phases

The East Savo Hospital District uses the technology at its main facility to control access, monitor patients' vital signs, ensure employee safety and track assets.
By Bob Violino
Mar 26, 2012—Some 50,000 people in eastern Finland rely on the East Savo Hospital District for basic health-care services, emergency treatment and specialized medical care. The organization operates one main hospital, Savonlinna Central Hospital, as well as smaller health-care facilities that serve local residents in six counties.

In 2005, East Savo launched the Digital Hospital Project at the main hospital "to introduce modern [information and communications] systems to help and support the medical care work, and to cut costs," says Antti Kaipainen, East Savo Hospital District's IT systems architect. Part of the project included the implementation of a wireless network.

Smart cards control access, based on job roles, to some 1,300 computer workstations equipped with integrated card readers.
Three years later, in 2008, East Savo leveraged the wireless infrastructure as it began a multi-phased radio frequency identification project, to help the hospital improve a number of processes. The hospital decided to begin the RFID project by controlling access to areas within its facility, because it saw that as a priority. "There are a lot of different types of tasks in a hospital, and access control according to job roles is necessary in order to ensure information/data security, as well as patient safety," Kaipainen explains.

Antti Kaipainen, East Savo Hospital District's IT systems architect
Phase two automated the monitoring of patients' vital signs, to improve accuracy and save time. And phase three focused on staff members' safety. As part of phase three, the hospital also introduced an asset-tracking solution.

"The use of RFID in a hospital is, first and foremost, a strategic decision," Kaipainen states. East Savo, he says, "considered RFID technology to be information secure, flexible and inexpensive. Also, RFID and NFC [Near Field Communication] technologies were seen as emerging technologies—the best yet to come—but providing a great opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the technology already."
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