How RFID Technology Can Improve the Way Your Hospital Operates
Harvard Business Review says that an RFID system can help you reduce the time that staff members spend finding equipment (and each other) – saving time, money, and lives.
“Nurses are spending less than two hours of a 12-hour shift attending to hospital patients directly,” says Jim Donaldson, senior director at Mojix. “They otherwise spend the rest of their shift searching for missing equipment, supplies and medications.”
He believes that if you’re tracking people, equipment and supplies using RFID, your hospitals can improve safety, reduce costs, and enhance the quality of care.
THE PERFECT TOOL FOR A HOSPITAL?
- Hospitals are an ideal fit for RFID tracking tech. Patients can receive RFID wristbands when they register, and all staff members can have RFID chips in their badges. Key equipment and medication can also be identified with discreet RFID stickers. “The efficiencies that can be gained would literally save time, money and lives,” Jim Donaldson from Mojix says.
- As an example, a Mojix RFID platform was installed at PeaceHealth in the USA to help track nurses and equipment. “Officials say the health system has cut its ‘doctor to bed’ time for patients in half, and reduced patients’ length of stay by almost 15%.”
- Meanwhile, at the University of Vermont Medical Centre in Burlington (USA), it was announced that five million medications had been successfully tracked using RFID technology.
In an HBR article, writers explain that when redesigning the Mayo Clinic’s Saint Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, USA, Mayo didn’t just want to add more space – they wanted to transform the way they cared for patients.
The fundamentals of RFID for hospitals
“The system [at Saint Mary’s] is reducing the time that staff members spend finding equipment and each other, and it informs them when a colleague is attending a patient and shouldn’t be interrupted,” HBR reports.
RFID helps family members quickly find patients too.
“Misplaced equipment can now be easily located and returned to its correct place. All this is allowing the clinical staff to spend more of their time on activities that benefit patients,” HBR adds.
Accurate tracking is a possibility
HID Global offers a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)-based device, for example, known as HID Location Services to allow businesses (like hospitals) to identify the locations of individuals within a room.
“The solution is aimed at universities, financial and manufacturing facilities, and healthcare companies that want to manage workforce location in real time,” says Anthony Petrucci of HID Global.
“With millions of customers across numerous industries, HID Global has identified a growing need for technology that would enable customers to better understand the movements of people through their spaces, adds Ian Lowe, HID Global’s director of product marketing physical access-control solutions.
Their points on RFID to consider:
- Some RFID technologies typically require a significant hardware investment in servers, antennae, readers, repeaters, and other equipment.
- BLE technology can pinpoint locations down to about a metre with less infrastructure.
- Smart cards with built-in RFID beacons can also be used for doctors and nurses.
Make surgery less complicated
A key area that RFID can play a crucial role in, in your hospital, is during surgical operations. How? Consider these factors from DolphinRFID:
- It is of paramount importance that surgeons and the staff in operating rooms have everything required for the procedure ready with them.
- By tagging medical devices, it enables hospitals to track all important devices used during surgical procedures in a matter of seconds and therefore improve patient safety.
- Today, different classes of medical devices are required to include a permanent mark containing a unique identifier and manufacturing information.
- Healthcare is among the largest spenders in RFID technology with over USD2 billion being spent per year in the USA.
Hospitals in the USA are leveraging the power of RFID to save millions of dollars. The Texas Health Hospital Alliance in Fort Worth has already tagged everything that moves including high-value assets, wristbands on patients and the badges of all staff members.
“By tagging all rental equipment too, the hospital saves nearly USD 65000 a month on rental fees. This is the case of a small hospital, imagine the savings that a huge hospital or a chain of hospitals can enjoy if they deploy RFID efficiently,” DolphinRFID representatives say.
DID YOU KNOW?
To reduce kidnappings, the Conway Regional Hospital in the USA uses Guard RFID Solutions’ TotGuard Infant Security System. The real-time location solution monitors the whereabouts of infants and young children within the facility. “Safety and security of our patients were of primary concern,” says Eric Kindsfater, regional director of safety, security and communications at Conway.
Why you need to pay attention to RFID
Smartphones are already replacing everything from POS machines to credit cards to even RFID tag readers.
“The mobile phones, with the necessary application interface and middleware would be able to read the information on the tag. All it needs is to be Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled,” DolphinRFID says.
By using NFC enabled phones, your hospital workers or nurses can read a patient’s RFID-enabled wrist band, for example, and appropriately administer medicines to that patient. “They can also check vital stats and issue an alert in case of emergencies through the phone.”
You should note too that the amount of data that RFID implementation will enable to be collected and collated would be immense.
“This would lead to huge advancements in customised and special healthcare to each patient by appropriate data mining,” HBR says. “RFID will help to keep a check on the unwanted costs and procurements and thus pass on the benefits of such savings to the ultimate beneficiaries – the patients.”
But, you must remember that you cannot rely on RFID technology alone to bring about innovation and change in a fast-paced environment like healthcare.
You need to create an environment that cultivates collaboration across medical disciplines, while ensuring ongoing engagement and continuous learning.
“Employing a scientific approach to improvement and having a team of scientists, clinicians, and engineers work with the local clinical staff at the patient’s bedside is a powerful way to bring about change. RFID can help you do this,” HBR says.
You can use RFID tech in your hospital in the following ways:
- In the emergency room and operating theatre – To track kitted items on crash carts, pharmacy kits, and other types of bundled medicine, equipment and supplies that are taken into the surgery area.
- Staff can track the contents of these kits and make sure every item is replaced before the cart or kit is put back into service.
- Prices of RFID labels have dropped and new solutions are emerging that can provide faster scanning (NFC smartphones) and item-level RFID tracking of vital blood products.
- Latest-gen RFID systems have been developed to track patients and staff members that might have come into the proximity of another patient with a contagious disease. Imagine the benefits of being able to quickly narrow down those who need to be quarantined and treated.
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