RFID Healthcare and RFID Hospitals
Many years ago we worked with a number of larger hospitals trying to introduce RFID Heathcare. At that time one of the projects was to track wheelchairs moving out of the hospital.
Apparently the wheelchairs went missing on a regular basis as patients or clients as they were called; accidentally left the facility in the wheelchair which was not supposed to happen. One other problem noticed was in many cases there were missing footrests on the wheelchair - sometimes the left footrest, sometime the right footrest, sometimes no footrests at all!
It was discovered that patients or clients sometimes exchanged wheelchair parts with other wheelchair bound persons - when the patient had no left leg or no left foot - they simply did not need that footrest so they gave it to someone who needed a footrest but didn't have one on their wheelchair.
Unfortunately we never implemented our wheelchair solution in those hospitals because of a rather large number of technology obstacles we could not overcome due to inherent limitations at the time. Tags were big, credit card sized; you needed a reader at each exit - sometimes several readers per exit, and many antennas that only provided a very limited reading range. Reader and tag costs for RFID Healthcare were high and implementations were very expensive - so savings were just not there.
How so many things can change in 15 to 20 years - RFID Healthcare is now very cost effective and easy to implement in hospitals and other EPC Healthcare facilities!
The size and cost of the readers is much lower and the tags that used to cost $95 USD each now cost less than $3 USD and have a much greater read range than ever before.
So what can we do today with Hospitals and Healthcare facilities that we could not do years ago?
How about RFID Access to staff parking? This provides automatic time and attendance and an instant view of who is left in the building in case of emergency?
What about opening operating room doors automatically by equipping gurneys with RFID tag?
SkyRFID can supply single UHF Gen 2 frequency solutions that can track or monitor many, many items. Portable hand held UHF RFID readers with WIFI or GSM/GPRS or CDMA, GPS, and Bluetooth provide read distances from under 1 meter to over 5 meters (16.40 feet) depending on the reader and the type of tag being read - makes taking inventory really easy, fast and accurate!
- What is supposed to be in a room - A single read on a low cost door tag can provide that information.
You simply tag all of the items in the room that you wish to monitor using the right tag for the type of material that you are tagging. Then tag the room door with a SkyRFID master tag. To take inventory of the room the person just reads the door master tag with a portable wireless reader and then reads the tags in the room - if an item is read that should not be there the user is alerted visually and audibly and then can move that item to the correct location. Pressing another key on the hand held reader displays any items missing - simple, easy and quick.
- Where is that piece of surgical equipment that is needed for operating room 4?
Using UHF Gen 2 you can create zones in departments using up to 4 antennas per reader - this allows an RFID system to automatically determine if equipment is moving in and out of zones and what the equipment is. You can easily add an alert to a specific tag so that when the piece of equipment is moved someone gets notified - easy to control where things are and where they should stay.
- What pieces of that wheelchair belong to another wheelchair and what wheelchair
- Why is our wheelchair going out the door unattended?
- Where are all of the wheelchair detachable parts?
Using a metal mount long distance read tag, any wheel chair going into an area that needs to be controlled can be identified automatically and based on the event notification several options can occur - stopping the door from opening, an audible alarm, or a silent location notifier - easy, simple and not expensive. For those removable parts on a wheelchair it is simply a matter of attaching the SkyRFID Mini Metal Special Tags and you can easily find out which footrest or other part belongs to which wheelchair. Now when you find spare wheelchair parts you can read the part identification and then look on a screen to see where the wheelchair is currently located. Since you have some entrance and exit doors already set up for RFID reading you can also track where the parts disappear to.
- Where is that pump and when does it need maintenance and re-calibration?
- Where is that defilbrillator?
- Aspirators? Where did they go?
Tracking hospital equipment and usage of equipment is a monumental task if it is not automated. Once RFID Hospital technology is implemented the tracking becomes very simple and automated. Just positioning an antenna at main entrances to departments can provide zone location control that can be expanded to smaller areas based on the critical needs rather than implement a large expensive Real Time Location System (RTLS) that needs to be tuned all the time and eats IT resources.
SkyRFID can provide very small waterproof and heat proof RFID tags that can easily be attached to equipment and instruments that require sterilization. Using RFID Hospital tags you can now keep track of what has been sterilized, when it was sterilized and where it is.
- How many oxygen cylinders or other bottled gases do we have on each floor and how many need refilling?
To make sure that all bottled gases are available when needed means checking and replacement on a regular basis - and in many cases there may be more bottles that required simply due to the inability to control inventory. Using an RFID Healthcare tag on each bottle and checking it in and out will assist greatly in managing inventory, plus if the bottle is low or empty you can use a simple indication system to electronically advise the supplier that this bottle is empty. Having an RFID inventory control provides very accurate information and you can then have your inventory monitored in real time by the supplier who will then replenish the items when required, cutting out the need to have someone take inventory and then order the goods needed.
- What is the correct medication for this patient?
- How do I know this is the right medication for this patient?
- What operation is scheduled for this patient?
- Where is the patient and what diagnostics have been ordered and completed
Healthcare administration is a daunting task, what room, what doctor, what operation, what medication, what tests, when, where, why - so many pieces of input required just to get a patient or client admitted. And then where are they and how do you ensure that you are providing the right services at the right times? Some Hospitals are going to Bar Codes wrist bracelets to assist in reducing the errors factors, but bar codes need direct line of site to be read and it is virtually impossible to equip an entire hospital with bar code readers and then scan everything!
However, it is feasible to add RFID automation because it does not need line of sight to be read and in spite of the all the hoopla on RFID not being able to be read when attached to metal objects, people and liquids - these "Old Problems" have been solved, at a very low cost and using a single RFID frequency. Equipping a patient or client with a disposable or longer term RFID bracelet is a little more expense than using a bar code bracelet, but - and it is a BIG BUT - the overwhelming benefits of higher accuracy, easier deployment, and automated use reduce the overall healthcare costs.
Issuing medication from an RFID equipped narcotics cabinet that has tamper evident seals on drugs to an RFID dispenser to an RFID equipped medication cart to an RFID tagged patient room door to an RFID patient bracelet - you have 100% accuracy and parts of this can be automated so there is less manual and error prone functions required. Less than one year ago equipping a drug cabinet with RFID shelf location controls was considered a large expense. Now it has been reduced to a much lower cost and is feasible. Patient wristbands are available in disposable single use, multi-day use or long term and all of them can be read by any fixed or portable Gen 2 RFID reader.
- What uniforms and gowns last the longest?
- How many uniforms do we need for each staff member?
- When do the uniforms need replacing or simply who has them?
SkyRFID now supplies small disk 22 mm dia Gen 2 laundry tags that can be sewn into uniforms or gowns that have a read range of more than 2 meters (6 feet). Our new garment tags are flexible, reusable and you don't even know you are wearing one - with read distances of over 3 meters and up to 7 meters garment control issues are problems of the past - especially since the cost of these new tags is equivalent to the older 13.56 MHz disk tag - but no wear marks and a huge read distance improvement. Now you can have higher automation controls for garments and also have location controls for staffing - where is that surgeon when you need them?