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5 Ways RFID Tags Help the Healthcare Industry

According to Mark Roberti, the founder and editor of RFID Journal, less than 10 percent of hospitals have adopted RFID technology, however, the technology is an emerging trend in healthcare. The theory is, RFID technology can help hospitals use their resources more effectively, allowing staff to spend less time looking for medical supplies and more time caring for patients.

“The reason why healthcare costs are so high is hospitals keep buying things they already have and waste money,” Roberti said at a conference organized by his journal which focused on RFID in Healthcare. Hospitals have been so focused on patient care that they have been slow to adopt technology that saves money.

Representatives from hospitals and the healthcare industry came together to come up with examples of how they were able to use RFID technology to adopt leaner supply chain practices associated with manufacturing to pare down costs and improve safety. Here are a five examples of what they came up with.

Reduce overstocking of supplies
One of the biggest problems at Concord Hospital in New Hampshire has been overstocking supplies. The hospital wanted to get a better handle on its supply management, so it got clinicians involved in developing and managing the supplies by using a supply chain manager LogiD’s, 2 Bin-ID system.

The system uses primary and secondary batches of supplies. Each has a tag containing a passive RFID transponder. The person who takes the last of the primary batch item, moves the next batch forward and places the tag on a wall-mounted RFID reader board near the storage unit. This triggers an automated replenishment request to the hospital’s material management information system and that generates a purchase requisition for the items.

This system had a 13 percent inventory reduction across its departments with the biggest inventory reductions in its surgery unit, ICU and emergency department. It also increased inventory in the Cath lab., where it needed it most.

Safer injections
Sanraku Hospital, a 270-bed hospital in Tokyo, found a way to improve injection safety by using a handheld reader with RFID tags in patient wristbands. Drugs are matched with prescription information in electronic medical records. The information can be accessed by scanning a barcode on the bottle and matching it to the patient’s ID number coded into the RFID tag on the patient’s wristband.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center sewed RFID tags into the seams of x-ray protection vests in an effort to reduce the time it takes to locate the vests for government inspections, said Stuart Grogan, the radiology equipment manager who developed its Pulse Finder RFID enhanced system.

Infection reduction
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital is using RFID tags to track the people who come in contact with patients with a contagious potentially dangerous infection such as TB.

Prescription drug tracking
This year President Barack Obama signed into law the Drug Quality and Security Act to electronically track and trace prescription drugs using RFID tags. Although this will mainly affect pharmaceutical companies, it will change the way drugs are tracked. Instead of only tracking a drug based on its lot number, they will also include information such as the expiration date and each point of contact for the drug from the manufacturer to the pharmacy.

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