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he medical sciences are always looking for ways to implement innovative approaches to healthcare infrastructure, supply chains, and operational workflows. Recently, this drive towards digitalization and technology adoption became a priority for governments, regulatory bodies, and private organizations alike. It’s because deploying technologies like RFID in healthcare can have an immediate impact on the entire process. 

Quick Takeaways:

  • RFID is helping reduce medical errors with improved identification, tracking, and procedure verification in medical environments.
  • Supply chains for drugs are benefitting by using RFID during every step of the process from manufacturing to delivery.
  • To help curb disease outbreaks and pandemics, RFID allows facilities to track everyone who comes into contact with infected patients and monitor hygiene protocols.

5 Benefits of RFID in Healthcare Systems and Infrastructure

In medical and healthcare industries, RFID can assist wherever there is a need to manage, track, control, or stage resources. In pharmacies, RFID is helping track medicine distribution from the manufacturer to the patient fulfilling a prescription. 

Medication management throughout the manufacturing, distribution, and delivery stages are looking to RFID for improving control and limiting access to controlled substances. The technology behind RFID and NFC (near field communication)  enables labs, hospitals, and the entire medical supply chain to track and trace biological samples, equipment, and drugs throughout their daily processes. With additional scrutiny required on drug and preventative medicine distribution and delivery, RFID is uniquely suited to overcome all these challenges. 

Here are some of the key areas where RFID is making a positive impact on the prevention of infections and medical errors. 

1. Reduce Medical Errors

Every year, thousands of patients die in hospitals and healthcare facilities due to medical errors. With the complexity involved in providing adequate care to patients, it’s easy for a mistake to creep in when physicians do not have access to accurate patient information. According to some estimates, the number of patients who succumb to medical mistakes every year can be as much as 195,000. With RFID systems, healthcare providers can help prevent many of these errors and help save lives. 

Clinicians, doctors, and emergency medical personnel need access to accurate and up-to-date information when responding to events. RFID enables the storage and rapid access to data using unique IDs that provide all the relevant incident data and medical history. With quick access to all relevant patient information, everyone from crisis management teams to emergency responders can ensure they provide the correct treatment and reduce the risk of a fatal error. 

2. Enhance Patient Care and Surgical Procedures

A range of different RFID healthcare applications has enabled medical practitioners to streamline everything from patient intake to traumatic events. RFID applications for patient care and surgical procedures include:

  • Optimized billing and invoicing – Suppliers of components, devices, and consumables use RFID to generate accurate invoices automatically for procedures.  
  • Improved patient safety – Companies use RFID to track consumables in surgeries like sponges to make sure they didn’t leave anything behind after the procedure. 
  • Accurate patient identification – RFID tags are helping physicians to accurately identify patients and prevent wrong-site or wrong-procedure occurrences in hospitals. 
  • Post-procedure monitoring – After a procedure, monitoring the patient’s vitals is possible with RFID tags that have capabilities like measuring temperatures or recording falls. 

RFID makes it possible to increase operational efficiencies in hospitals by tracking administrative processes, managing throughput times effectively, and optimizing room utilization. With increased visibility into all healthcare operations, RFID allows administrators to pinpoint different areas where it’s possible to improve. 

3. Manage Disease Outbreaks and Pandemics

In pandemics (or outbreaks that could lead to pandemics), RFID systems can track and trace patients, caregivers, and the vaccination process. For caregivers, facilities must track all movements to determine exposure. With vaccines, every dose may need special care during transportation and distribution to ensure its efficacy when being administered. 

RFID solutions can span the entire manufacturing, distribution, and administration process from start to finish. Serializing products with RFID tags, including real-time location systems (RTLS) in the procedures, and managing stock levels in times of crisis are vital in preventing an outbreak from becoming another pandemic. 

4. Improve Hygiene Practices in Hospitals and Care Facilities

Hand-hygiene compliance is another area where RFID systems can assist. Real-time continuous monitoring and tracking of all hand-hygiene practices prevent a healthcare worker from spreading a disease to other patients. Usually, an observer carries out all compliance checks, but this is intermittent and delivers inconsistent results. The subject will know the person is watching them for a set period. 

RFID location tracking gives compliance officers the ability to track the complete path of every caregiver and monitor (or record) all hand-hygiene events. In one case, RFID system tracking combined with CCTV footage had an accuracy rate of 93% compared to in-person observations. When dealing with an infectious disease, ensuring everyone remains compliant with the medical facility’s procedures and rules remains a primary concern for everyone involved in the healthcare industry. RFID makes these oversight and governance processes easier to deal with and provides teams with accurate results. 

5. Capture and Generate Statistical Data

Administrators need accurate data that cover the entire medical and healthcare provision process to make informed decisions about resourcing, equipment inventory, and consumable consumption. Accurate information about all the elements required to improve the level of care in facilities using RFID-enabled middleware can optimize almost every portion of the process.

Administrators can track staff during their shifts, count the medical machines in their inventory, record servicing and maintenance activities on devices, and monitor the drug delivery processes. This information helps the planners and decision-makers to reduce bottlenecks and ensure the timely resupply of key consumables without needing to do manual stock takes. Accurate location, procedure, and inventory data give administrators clear insights into their current procedures and, more importantly, generate precise data that informs all future decisions. 

For More RFID in Healthcare Application, Join RFID Journal LIVE!

RFID and NFC systems are reshaping the world’s medical supply chains, healthcare quality, and drug delivery systems. To find out more about the latest applications and use cases, join us in September 2021 to see what new capabilities RFID has to offer. We are also hosting digital events during the year so check back regularly to find a track that applies to your organization or industry. 

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