Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology refers to a type of solution that uses radio waves to identify the location of a person or object. RFID technology has been available ever since the 1970s, but in recent years, we're seeing a wide variety of innovations in RFID technology across many industries—including in the field of healthcare.

RFID technology can help organizations to automate processes, and make it simple to track the location or status of different assets. It can easily replace the need to manually check items in or out and update details on spreadsheets. Because the process can be automated, this eliminates the likelihood of manual errors, and can cut down on the amount of manual labor needed to complete processes. It can also support compliance and healthcare quality initiatives, providing trackable evidence to demonstrate that proper protocols have been followed.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most promising uses for RFID technology in healthcare today.

Inventory management

Stocking prescription medications, OR supplies, or other medical supplies requires detailed recordkeeping. Many items need to be frequently restocked to ensure that you have the proper inventory for upcoming needs, and your support staff will need to frequently take inventory and place reorders to keep up with demand when this process is conducted manually.

However, by moving to a system that's been automated with RFID technology, you can automatically manage your medication or supply inventory. Each item is equipped with an RFID tag, and can be instantly scanned in and out of the system, making it easy for staff members to know exactly where to find them at any given time. This can automate a follow-up workflow based on the item status, such as reordering new supply kits when inventory reaches a certain level.

This process can be a huge time-saver for technicians, who previously needed to do manual data entry. Automated RFID healthcare solutions like Kitcheck can reduce restocking times by up to 96%.

RFID Patient Tracking

Patient tracking

"Switched at birth" baby mix-ups are the material of plenty of movies, though they rarely happen in reality.

Even so, it's important that new parents have the security that their newborns won't be misplaced or misidentified when out of their line of sight. That's why some hospitals, including Pratt Regional Medical Center in Pratt, Kan., use an RFID-equipped ankle band system on newborn babies in their care. An alarm will detect if someone is trying to take the baby somewhere without permission, and the tags can be used to ensure that the baby is placed with the right mother, who wears a matching tag.

This technology is also useful for patients with dementia, Alzheimer's disease, or other cognitive disorders, who may wander outside of their permitted zone and become lost. Wearing an RFID wristband or ankle band can help these patients' care facilities ensure that they stay within their approved locations, and give them more freedom to explore without risk of getting lost.

And when patients are being prepared for surgery, they can be equipped with RFID tags when they check in. Sensors placed in hallways and waiting rooms can track their location, sending signals to software to instantly provide updates on status or location changes. That can help hospital staff manage their surgical schedules, so they can be sure to prep rooms at the right times based on which patients are ready for operations.

Hygiene and compliance tracking

Hospitals and other medical facilities have strict protocols around washing hands, so using RFID scanners to turn faucets on and off means that they can track exactly how often each staff member is washing their hands, and for how long. That’s important data for tracking individual staff members' compliance, as well as gathering aggregated data that healthcare facilities can use to inform their quality control processes and develop new training initiatives. They can also track hygiene scores against their infection rates, and will be able to see the risk of infections go down as hand washing compliance becomes stronger.

Hand washing is just one example of the many compliance initiatives that can be tracked with RFID tags. Any protocol in which a certain step must be followed can be monitored with an RFID tag, which will help you to identify the specific person taking the step or which piece of equipment is being used to complete it. This will help you build automated compliance workflows that you’ll be able to monitor from a centralized dashboard, where you can analyze data trends and instantly see when action items need to be completed.

Temperature and quality control

RFID tags can also be used on supplies and equipment to ensure quality and compliance. They can be equipped with sensors that monitor temperature or humidity, so that alerts will go off if a medication or supply is improperly stored and must be thrown out. The tags can also store data such as expiration dates and recall notices, so that hospital staff will receive notices if specific items must be replaced because of an expiration, recall, or other issue.

Eliminate the competition

Conclusion

RFID technology is an important component of the "internet of things" movement that's driving many innovations in healthcare as well as many other industries. By making it easy to store data and track locations using radio frequency signals, healthcare facilities can get real-time, data-driven insights on their supply chain, inventory, patient care workflows, and compliance protocols.

This knowledge can help your organization operate more efficiently and effectively, reducing the amount of manual labor needed to complete processes and cutting the likelihood of mistakes. With a data-driven, transparent system for managing assets and patient status, you'll be able to get a comprehensive view of your operations to help you inform new protocols and initiatives, improving the quality of the healthcare you can deliver.

If you need help implementing an RFID technology solution for your facility, get in touch with iTechArt.