RFID, or radio frequency identification, has attained widespread popularity all across the globe, with the healthcare industry investing in this technology the most. The idea is that by utilizing the available resources efficiently, the hospital staff spends less time looking for medical supplies and more time with the patients.
According to Mark Roberti, the founder and editor of the RFID Journal, healthcare costs are incredibly high nowadays because hospitals continue purchasing items they already have. They have been so concerned about saving lives; that they paid zero attention to technology adoption.
Representatives from different hospitals illustrated how they implemented RFID to pave the way for lean supply chain strategies, reducing costs and enhancing safety. Here are a couple of examples –
1. Controlling Infections
‘Texas Health Harris Methodist’ has been using RFID solutions to track people who have been exposed to patients suffering from a contagious or potentially life-threatening infection like tuberculosis. A specific team is responsible for crunching data generated by the RFID tag scanners and alerting people who require screening.
2. Securing Injections
In Tokyo, the 270-bed hospital, Sanraku, collaborated with Bay Nexus to manage medical equipment seamlessly. It began with needles. The RFID tags embedded in patient bands and drugs are matched with the prescription data stored electronically. The data can be accessed by scanning the barcode on the medicine bottle or reading a patient’s ID number with a handheld reader.
3. Decreasing Supply Stock
Supply overstock is perhaps one of the most frustrating problems the nurses at New Hampshire’s Concord Hospital face. The hospital also wished to get better control on supply management. Getting doctors involved in creating and championing such systems is critical.
Each item contains a passive RFID tag. The person who takes the last item places the tag on the RFID reader fixed to the wall. This sends an automatic replenishment request to the hospital’s material management system and triggers a requisition to buy the items.
RFID healthcare contributed to about 13 percent inventory reduction in the ICU, surgery unit, and emergency department. It increased inventory where it was most necessary – the Cath laboratory.
4. Trace and Track Prescription Drugs
On Thanksgiving, President Obama declared the Drug Security and Quality Act. It enabled hospitals to trace and track prescription drugs via product identifiers electronically. Even though this largely affected the pharmaceutical companies, it revolutionized the way drugs were tracked.
Thanks to RFID, one does not have to track drugs based on their lot number. They consider other information like the expiration date and point of contact.
Many hospitals are using RFID innovatively. The ‘Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’ incorporated RFID into the x-ray protective vests to decrease its time to find out vests for government scrutiny. RFID also allowed the centre to shift from a paper-based tracking system to an electronic one. The records thus became more accurate, and the equipment became easier to locate.
As evident from the above discussion, the healthcare industry can benefit a lot from RFID. Although a bit on the pricier side, the technology pays for itself repeatedly. Hospitals and clinics must start making investments as soon as possible.