Hospitals Should Consider a Phased Approach to Deploying RFID

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

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

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.

UHF is the Magic Pill for RFID in Healthcare

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jan 03, 2012 @ 02:19 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Embedded RFID, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management, Patient Tracking, Process Control, Wristband Tags, Wander Prevention, Temperature Monitoring, Announcements

Wireless HospitalAs we look to 2012, our first major event is HIMSS and we can’t wait. The healthcare market has been at the forefront of RFID adoption, discovering a plethora of ways in which the technology can streamline operations, reduce human error and make the patient experience exponentially better.

This year HIMSS (February 20-24, Venetian Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas) will host the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion in which it will showcase a variety of technologies that work together to deliver real-time patient information to the mobile devices and tablets of physicians and hospital staff (Visit ThingMagic in KIOSK #16). Scenarios from the OR, ICU and ED and will demonstrate 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 environments from tracking expiration dates on medication, to personalizing the experience for cancer patients, to managing inventory of critical dose medication, to helping surgeons locate tumors.

According to a Frost & Sullivan report, RFID: Unlocking Opportunities in the Healthcare Vertical from July 2011, “The RFID market is expected to witness a significant increase in revenues by 2017, due to its acceptability, capability, and credibility. It has taken an affirmative position in the healthcare sector owing to substantial cost savings and convenience.”

RFID’s Success in Healthcare Can Be Attributed to Passive UHF RFID

Barcodes have long been used in the hospital supply chain for tracking products, supplies and inventory control. By using barcodes on forms, wrist bands and records, healthcare providers have driven efficiencies into the patient registration process.

Passive UHF RFID can enhance or replace many supply chain management, patient registration, patient safety, clinical care, and billing workflows that currently use barcodes. While both barcodes and RFID can be used for these activities, Passive UHF RFID is more effective due to the additional automation and cost saving opportunities it delivers.  Simply put, Passive UHF RFID enables the rapid and precise measurement of almost every operation in the healthcare setting - from counting and verifying the number of items in each surgical tray to analyzing the slightest body movement.

Passive UHF RFID allows tags to be read from far away so that readers can be deployed in a variety of ways including permanent installations wired to the existing hospital Ethernet network, within strategically located “portals,” and integrated into mobile and stationary devices like carts and cabinets. This flexibility is complemented by the wide variety of Passive RFID tags that can be affixed to or integrated into consumable inventory, handheld surgical tools, patient wristbands, photo ID badges, and many other items.

Put simply, Passive RFID is the most economical way to measure a large number of parameters in healthcare setting, enabling innovative patient-centric applications that would otherwise not be implemented

Proven Uses of Passive UHF RFID Solutions Include:

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

Asset 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, and enhanced patient services.

Patient/Staff Tracking – 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.

We’re sure to see these and other uses in action at the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion at HIMSS. For more examples of ThingMagic in Healthcare, please download the following case studies:

Disney Family Cancer Center Case Study: The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center Implements Innovative RFID Solution to Enhance Patient Experience and Increase Efficiency

Hopefully what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas!

Leading Oncology Clinics Recognize Merits of RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 @ 09:55 AM

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Healthcare, Patient Tracking, Access Control, Document Management

XECAN RFIDThe state of Massachusetts has long been considered a hub for technology innovation and medical research. So, it’s no wonder that RFID linked the two together in our own backyard.

Recently, ThingMagic announced that several leading oncology clinics had deployed RFID solutions in order to improve patient safety and radiation treatment reliability. In the cases of Commonwealth Newburyport Cancer Center, Lahey Clinic and Jordan Hospital, they looked to RFID to help eliminate “wrong patient, wrong treatment,” commonly associated with human error.

The cure has arrived! No, it’s not medicine. It’s innovation with RFID. In the image to the left, a Jordan Hospital patient is wearing a XECAN lanyard with an RFID badge. When the patient walks into a CT scan room he is identified automatically by a ThingMagic Astra UHF RFID Reader installed in that room. Because of the extended read range of the reader, patients need only pass within approximately 15 feet to be recognized. Not to worry. Patient-identifiable information can only be viewed within the clinic, and only by authorized staff members.

When the patient's badge is read, their chart and treatment plan are immediately opened by the XECAN system. If another patient’s chart is open in the system at the time the new patient arrives at the CT scan room, the first chart is closed and the chart of the patient who is physically present is automatically opened. Treatment devices are also tagged so that they can be detected by ThingMagic Astra readers during treatment. Radiation cannot be started if treatment devices are incorrect or missing. Thi added measure of reliability delivered by the XECAN system gives patients and doctors peace of mind.

By automatically identifying the patient, the system eliminates the need for the patient to correct the spelling of their name or reiterate their appointment time, for example, when they have already signed up for an emotionally and physically taxing day. Reducing the manual tasks of the hospital staff allows them to spend more quality time with the patients.

In this application, RFID also replaces ID cards with barcodes which can often be cumbersome for the patients to scan if they’ve become worn.

When you put it all together – fewer manual tasks for clinicians, peace of mind for the patient and improved reliability for the doctors - the oncology clinics mentioned can offer a far more inviting medical experience. The situation allows for a more successful treatment. And who wouldn’t want that?

If you would like more information about this deployment, please download our case study:

Click me

We plan to check in with these Massachusetts clinics in a few months to see how the implementation is going and if they’ve discovered even more unexpected benefits from using the RFID system.

We're also interested in your thoughts about the use of RFID in healthcare.  Where to you think it will have the most impact? What RFID-based systems are most effective? Is it best to start with small departmental deployments and scale or go for a full enterprise-wide deployment from the start?

Enhancing the Patient Experience with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 @ 11:47 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Patient Tracking

“It’s Like Angels Singing”

Who likes going to the doctor’s office or hospital?  We all have an image formed from years of wasting time in waiting rooms reading 3-year-old magazines, then being in colorless treatment rooms that are either too cold or too hot.  That only adds to the anxiety that already exists from being there in the first place.

Imagine if instead you looked forward to going to the hospital because it helps you relax.  Sound crazy?

“I walked through these doors and I swear it was like angels singing. I’m not a really spiritual person, but this is so beautiful the way it puts you at ease by diverting your mind from your treatment and using nature to help you relax.” These are the actual words of a patient being treated at The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, California.

In Tuesday’s post, we introduced the concept of patient-centric applications that deliver a valuable and unique user experience in ways that could not be done economically or aesthetically without RFID. Point-of-care solutions and services, automated pharmaceutical receipt & distribution and automated admissions, discharge and transfer; all may sound fairly routine on the surface. What is most important, however, is the patient experience.  Consider a cancer patient whose treatment experience is enhanced because the environment (temperature, lighting, music, etc) changes to their liking by simply walking through the hospital door. Futuristic? Nope. It’s already happening.

With Passive RFID, everything happens behind the scenes so it’s not disruptive to patients and it doesn’t create extra steps for physicians and hospital administrators. In fact it does just the opposite by streamlining very complex workflows. The technology becomes invisible and the experience it makes possible has a positive impact on each patient’s state of mind as they undergo an emotionally and physically draining experience. It can put them on a faster road to recovery. 

That may sound too good to be true. So, how does it work?

At The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, RFID-enabled identification badges worn by patients hold information on his or her favorite colors, music and vacation spots, as well as the items critical to fostering a smooth process like billing, pharmaceutical, scheduling, and doctor information. Once a patient walks through a door, the RFID reader identifies the patient and alerts a concierge who immediately greets them and directs them to their next appointment. That’s the way it should be. Patients in these serious medical situations shouldn’t have to question whether they are in the right room, wait unnecessarily for prescription medications or dispute a billing mistake. 

Disney Family Cancer Center Disney Family Cancer Center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And there is an added bonus to implementing Passive RFID in healthcare settings. It can streamline communications between clinicians, patients and administrators. Doctors can greet people immediately upon arrival because patient names are sent to their VoIP phones when they enter the facility. And no more sitting in stark waiting rooms wondering when it’ll be their turn. Patients can be located via their ID badges, so they can walk around the facility or go outside while they wait.

View Images of The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center’s deployment of RFID technology used to enhance patient experiences and increase efficiencies published by InformationWeek.

What other types of patient-centric applications would you like to see made possible? It may not be as far off as you think. Please respond with your ideas here. 

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