RFID in Healthcare is The Big Easy!

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 @ 02:05 PM

HIMSSThe Intelligent Hospital Pavilion at HIMSS in New Orleans earlier this month made it EASY to see the BIG value of RFID for improving the quality of patient care. Scenarios from the Pharmacy, OR, ICU and ED demonstrated how information is coordinated from diverse patient care environments with Near Field Communications (NFC), RFID, RTLS (real time locating systems), sensors and wireless technologies.

RFID has proven its worth in healthcare and continues to improve procedures and enhance workflows across a variety of areas, including:

Medication Management – ensures the right medication is delivered at the right time in the right dose by the right staff via the right means, as well as optimizes inventory of medication in the pharmacy.

Equipment Tracking – identifies the location and travel patterns of many types of valuable assets in real-time, resulting in reduced product loss, reduced capital equipment purchases & leases, improved maintenance levels, and enhanced patient services.

Patient/Staff Workflow – tracks the travel patterns of staff, patients and personnel in real-time for access control, improved patient & staff workflows, reduced wait times, and integration into anti-abduction, wander prevention, and hand hygiene solutions.

Departmental Loss Prevention – proven to deliver an ROI in a short period of time by saving high value assets from being mistakenly discarded.

Several of our blog posts cover the well-established use cases mentioned above. Check them out here: RFID in healthcare.

More recently, we’ve seen how this intelligent tracking can work regarding medical equipment.  For example, scientists at GE Global Research recently won a $2.5 million contract with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to develop an RFID system for their hospitals that will automate the transporting, cleaning, and storing of surgical tools.

GE’s system, which uses ThingMagic readers for its prototype designs, is the newest in a collection of smart RFID technology we’re seeing emerge in the healthcare space.



By leaving room for error in the management of surgical tools, hospitals can not only open their patients to the risks of infection, but may also slow surgery setup and turnaround times and inaccurately report their inventory. The system GE is looking to implement would use robotics to automate the transportation, cleaning, and sterilization processes but RFID would function as the brains of the operation to ensure the right tools are sterile and in the appropriate operating rooms at the right time. Together, the RFID and robotics elements would automate the collection of dirty tools from an operating room, delivery to a sterile processing center, sorting, cleaning, and sanitation post-surgery. For the next operation, tools would be automatically built into kits, sterilized, and stored until the next doctor needs them delivered to a different operating room.

The Department of Veteran Affairs, known to be early adopters of innovative IT solutions in healthcare, didn’t stop there. They also recently awarded a $543 million contract to HP Enterprise Services to put a Real Time Location System (RTLS) in place for the millions of assets at their 152 VA medical centers. An important part of this system will be the platform provided by Intelligent InSites - a ThingMagic partner - which will be applied to a number of RFID-enabled use cases, including everything from monitoring hand hygiene and tool sterilization to managing emergency department and operating room workflows. The deployment will offer the VA an unprecedented level of visibility and analytical intelligence, not only improving hospital efficiency and compliance, but also strengthening patient care and satisfaction.

Though RFID appears in different capacities throughout hospital systems – be it in dispensing medication, queuing patients, delivering surgical tools, or managing medical records – the goal behind deploying these systems remains the same: improved patient care.


Contributors: Debbie Power, ThingMagic

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Robotics

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