During the summer of 2007, Capital Health System, an acute-care and teaching hospital located inTrenton,New Jersey, began tracking every medical file using RFID technology. What is RFID? It stands for Radio Frequency Identification. Every file has a small RFID circuit chip attached to it. This chip broadcasts an ID signal that can be picked up by special RFID receiving devices. In other words, if someone take a patient file, and leaves it in another part of the hospital, the RFID receiver can locate it quickly.
Capital Health System manages 5,000 patient files. Each file is tagged with an RFID tag allowing it to be tracked from the moment it is created for a new patient all the way until the file is retained in storage. The RFID readers can be positioned at various locations around the hospital to report in real time the locations for every file. Effieicieny improves, and liability is reduced.
Hopsitlas are also using RFID technology to:
- Continuously track each patient’s location
- Track the location of doctors and nurses in the hospital
- Track the location of expensive and critical instruments and equipment
- Restrict access to drugs, pediatrics, and other high-threat areas to authorized staff
- Monitor and track unauthorized persons who are loitering around high-threat areas
- Facilitate triage processes by restricting access to authorized staff and “approved” patients during medical emergencies, epidemics, terrorist threats, and other times when demands could threaten the hospital’s ability to effectively deliver services
- Use the patient’s RFID tag to access patient information for review and update through a hand-held computer
The problem at Christiana Hospital in Newark,Del., where the emergency department has 76 treatment rooms that handle more than 100,000 patients yearly, was that triage nurses were losing track of where patients were in the treatment process as they were moved among diagnostic and treatment facilities. The result: The overall length of a patient’s stay was spiking above normal levels, and about 4% to 5% were leaving without any treatment at all. An RFID system combined with computer software that associates patients with equipment and treatments solved this problem.
Recent surveys show RFID based solutions are really starting to take off in hospitals around the country. Many hospitals see RFID solutions as part of taking the step into digital record keeping.