RFID Technology in Healthcare

Oct 10, 2019

Digiteum Team

RFID technology


RFID Technology in Healthcare

RFID technologies are widely used in many fields from tracking cattle in agriculture to counting items during warehouse inventory. Retail, manufacturing, logistics, smart warehousing and banking are among the industries that drive efficiency and automation to their operations using RFID and Internet of Things. Health and elderly care is not an exception.

Let’s learn about the specifics of modern RFID applications and how healthcare benefits with the application of this technology.

RFID and Internet of Things

What RFID Technology Is

RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, is the technology that uses radio waves to enable communication and data transmission between a reader system and the object that has a special tag attached or carved-in. In short, the tags reflect the energy emitted by the reader and, thus, identifies the object it’s attached to and communicates certain information such as location.

Today, there’s a great variety of RFID tags. For example, on-metal tags are embedded into a metal object and are designed to last. RFID inlays allow to simply stick the tag to a surface. Some tags are cheap (around $3 cents apiece) and disposable, others are permanent and can reach $20 per unit.

Passive Radio Frequency Identification technology allows recognizing an object or its location on demand. More advanced version, Real Time Location System (RTLS), implies using a network of readers that continuously monitor the position of tagged objects, place their locations on a map and dynamically track and report any status change.

Radio Frequency Identification Technology Used in IoT

Application of RFID technology in IoT is very broad and diverse. RFID tags are primarily used to make everyday objects communicate with each other and the main hub and report their status. In healthcare, for example, movable medical equipment with passive RFID tags attached can be easily found on-call.

RTLS enables real-time tracking of tagged objects and helps create a system of connected devices that continuously transmit data about their location, conditions, amount, etc. These capabilities make the foundation for building an IoT system. In other words, the function of RFID technology in IoT is to connect objects into a network and make them create and send data.

Not only status data, if we are talking about IoT and RFID of the new generation. Sensor-enabled battery-powered RFID tags are already widely used in different areas. Unlike simple RFID tags that don’t actively broadcast signals, sensor-enabled tags can create and send metrics and other datum in real-time, expand the capabilities of the connected devices and make them truly smart.

Internet of Medical Things

Are you working on an RFID-based IoT project or plan to exploit the benefits of RFID for your business? Contact Digiteum analysts and the development team to get a qualified consultation in this field.

IoT and RFID in Healthcare

Researchers estimate that the number of connected devices will grow up to 200 billion by 2020. Many of these devices will be RFID-enabled and settle in clinics, emergency rooms, elderly care centers and other healthcare organizations. This makes Radio Frequency Identification in healthcare widespread and extremely useful. Here’s how:

Asset tracking and management

Thanks to RTLS, tagged medical equipment and objects such as beds and wheelchairs are easily located on a hospital map, can be moved on demand and never get lost from the management’s sight.

Automated inventory

Disposable goods such as gloves, masks and scrubs, which are used in great amounts and require strict inventory, are counted and located automatically during the RFID-based inventory process.

RFID and Internet of Things

Patient and staff tracking and management

One of the most important RFID applications in healthcare is hospital patient tracking systems. RFID-enabled wearables for patients and staff allow to continuously monitor people's movement both indoors and outside within readers’ reach.

Thus, elders with dementia always stay on the caregiver’s sight and relatives can get updated on the transfer of post-op patients. Tracking staff’s movement across hospital spaces and departments helps improve routines and quickly find an available specialist on demand.

Enhanced safety for staff and consumers

Tracking equipment, hospital visitors, patients, newborns, etc. provides previously unavailable visibility to all the processes and enables better security and control of movements and activities in the healthcare facility. For example, when RFID-enabled surgical instruments are tracked along the sterilization process, it significantly decreases the risk of contaminated or improperly sterilized equipment to get to the operating room.

RFID and Internet of Things

Infection control

Once an easy-to-spread dangerous infection such as measles is spotted on-site, tracking all the spaces, objects and people in contact can help mitigate the risks of further contamination and seal the infection before the outbreak starts.

How RFID Technology with IoT Improve Hospitals

The benefits of RFID technology are diverse in various spheres, from automating and speeding up inventory to gaining better visibility to the use of spaces and devices. The benefits of RFID technology in hospitals are no less abundant, and maybe far more important. Here're just some of them:

  • Effective tracking, management and timely maintenance of expensive hospital equipment.
  • Automated inventory and management of single-use products and medication. Improved accuracy and real-time updates on the stock.
  • Reduced labor cost; enhanced productivity at less effort.
  • Improved experience for patients, visitors, providers.
  • Optimized working schedules and routines for healthcare professionals.
  • Eliminated human errors and loss of valuable data.
  • Better security in hospitals.
  • Guaranteed quality of medical products thanks to RFID-based authentification.
  • Increased measures against infection spreading, theft of medication and hospital property.
RFID and Internet of Things

Applications of IoT and RFID

RFID technology applications have been adopted in many established and emerging healthcare organizations, including hospitals, labs and private clinics.

For example, a well-known Mayo Clinic have implemented an RFID-based solution in the gastroenterology department to track patient tissue samples and make sure no patient data is lost or registered incorrectly.

Herzelia Medical Center also relies on RFID technology and uses smart cabinets for automated inventory, usage monitoring and replenishment of products like medication and medical devices.

One of the best RFID technology examples come from another leading healthcare provider in the U.S. Kaiser Permanente. The company implemented RFID to track more than 140k movable medical devices and other equipment to control the use and maintenance, optimize the work of healthcare professionals and make sure all members receive timely service.

RFID and Internet of Things

Are you interested in the benefits of RFID innovation and want to integrate this technology to improve operations in your company? Contact our IoT development team to discuss the potential of RFID and RTLS applied to your business case.

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