Although RFID (radio frequency identification) technologies are often thought of as a manufacturing and distribution tool, the use of the RFID in healthcare settings has become increasingly common and offers unique benefits to healthcare IT leaders. RFID’s foray into the healthcare scene began primarily with manufacturers and wholesalers, who used the technology as a way to track pharmaceuticals. As the technology had advanced, so have the potential applications within a healthcare environment.
RFID works by using electromagnetic fields to wirelessly transfer data. Once a hospital is equipped with RFID readers, items that are “tagged” can be counted, tracked, and processed as they pass by a device reader. Stickers embedded with the technology offer a variety of tracking uses within a healthcare environment, including inventory management. In the often fast-paced healthcare environment, items are often lost or misplaced. RFID tagged items can easily be identified, tracked and managed through a centralized database — helping the facility keep all the inventory information accurate and in one place.
RFID systems also allow for patient and personnel tracking as well. Patients wearing tagged medical bracelets can help medical staff quickly reference personal health information prior to surgery or administering medication, reducing risk of error and allowing clinicians to spend more face-time with their patients. Many facilities have also implemented the technology to collect data on patient movement patterns throughout the hospital in order to improve bottlenecks within the facility. Similarly, medical staff can be fitted with RFID tags on badges in order to learn about staff workflow and any inefficiencies within current hospital operations.