Hospitals Should Consider a Phased Approach to Deploying RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 @ 03:57 PM

Wireless HospitalIn our last post about RFID in healthcare, we explored the benefits of Passive UHF RFID. 

RFID in general presents many benefits for the healthcare industry, such as high value asset tracking, materials management, patient and staff workflow, and being used to support compliance with industry mandates and regulations including Sarbanes-Oxley, JACHO and OSHA. Because of the variety of applications and departmental functions that can be supported by an RFID visibility solution, selecting the right solution, or even the right project to begin with, can be daunting.

Many hospitals have Wi-Fi infrastructures for their voice and data processing needs. However, few have the density of Wi-Fi access points necessary for accurate real-time location tracking. Implementing a new WLAN infrastructure, or even just updating the Wi-Fi coverage, can be costly. Even with the necessary Wi-Fi coverage, RTLS/Wi-Fi based tags may not work well for certain applications. Such hurdles can include large tag size, time-limited battery life, required periodic re-calibration to maintain location accuracy and limitations in high interference areas like radiology.

Implement Passive RFID First

While RFID technologies can help achieve certain objectives and lower costs, it is still necessary to consider the cost of infrastructure changes and time commitment required from hospital IT staff.  With this in mind, a proven and practical approach is to start with low cost and easy to implement Gen2 Passive RFID. It limits the work required to the existing infrastructure and helps control costs. Gen 2 passive readers and tags can utilize the existing data processing network infrastructure and, in many cases, do not require extensive IT staff involvement to deploy. By utilizing lower cost, easy to deploy passive RFID-based systems as the initial step, hospitals can significantly improve productivity, offer enhanced patient services, and improve quality of care within current budget and IT program restraints – while having invested in a platform for growth.

A variety of reader and tag combinations allows hospitals to choose where they would like to deploy a Passive RFID visibility solution, usually based on where the need is greatest. The flexibility lets the hospitals be behind the wheel vs. being bound by any limitations from the technology. For example, a hospital can begin by tracking high-value mobile equipment such as wheelchairs, stretchers, crash carts, infusion pumps, etc. Other items in the hospital setting that can be monitored with RFID include:

  • Item-level pieces – surgical instruments and dressings, medicines, linens and uniforms
  • Medical records – files, documents, x-rays and other diagnostic images. RFID systems support the rollout of the electronic health records.
  • Patient movement and identification for proper administration of associated treatment plans

As the first high-value mobile equipment phase is completed and begins to yield a return on investment, the hospital can embark on the next phase. This phased approach allows a hospital department to measure and manage asset, material, patient and/or staff flow and productivity through each stage of the process. It’s been proven to deliver a near-immediate return on investment.

To learn more, download our case study: Greenville Hospital Deploys Integrated RFID Solution for Operating Room Asset Tracking

Check ThingMagic out at HIMSS where we’ll be showcasing healthcare operations made better with Passive RFID.

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Patient Tracking, Asset Management

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