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How Inexpensive RFID Technology Is Enabling Healthcare Clinicians To Be More Effective


TC2X-HC Patient Transport Scan Mask Row Application Photo (PNG)
Image courtesy of Zebra Technologies Media Library

Healthcare Clinicians are constantly challenged to locate patients, staff and life-saving equipment, often having to navigate large multi-site complexes in order to do so. On top of this, global news outlets are citing, “shortages in intensive care unit (ICU) bed space, medical equipment, medical supplies specific to COVID-19 and personal protection equipment (PPE)”, all of which continues to make it more and more critical for hospitals to make best use of real-time insights. For the vast majority of hospitals, barcoding has been a step in the right direction. Proper use of RFID technology is the next best step for wards looking to transform patient care and realise new efficiencies.


What is RFID technology and how does it work?

Simply put, RFID technology is a combination of small microchips interacting with scanners and readers. The chips can be embedded into a tag or a sticky label and attached to objects. As tagged objects pass through hospital wards, their location is automatically updated on IT systems, for clinicians to use for more informed activities and decisions.

Whether it’s sticky RFID tags on ventilators, or using RFID wristbands for patients with dementia, real-time locating systems are the future of Healthcare. If you wish to discuss implementation with a professional, do reach out to an expert via our Contact Us page. If you’d like more information about the benefits of RFID, we’ve included a comprehensive list below.


Patient Care

Barcode wristbands have been used to identify patients for years. While barcoding is useful for basic data recall, it fails to empower staff with the same capabilities as RFID. Years ago, the cost of RFID tags justified practices investing exclusively in barcoding; nowadays, there really is no excuse. RFID tags can deliver real-time insights - such as whether patients have left wards to use hospital facilities, or, in the case of dementia patients, left without authorisation – and enable healthcare professionals to better the care patients receive, as a result.


Unlike barcoded wristbands, RFID tags don’t require line of sight, which means clinicians can avoid having to disturb or move patients in order to access ID information, and can more quickly access real-time data.


Staff Location and Workflow

You may have noticed one study conducted by a hospital back in 2014, which used RTLS (Real-Time Location Systems) tags to track nurses’ movements throughout a 31-bed surgical unit.

Heat map visualization shows the location of the greatest traffic within a nursing unit, courtesy of Stanley Healthcare
Image courtesy of Stanley Healthcare

By tracking the movements of assets within a healthcare setting, journeys can be optimised to ensure clinicians are making the most of their time throughout a shift. Whether tasks are being streamlined, automated or otherwise, the important take-away is that the skills of hardworking nurses, doctors and other clinicians are better prioritised by using new technologies. Staff can be reassured that equipment is accessible, as and when they need it, so that they can dedicate more time to their respective specialties.



Image courtesy of Zebra Technologies Media Library

Tracking Medical Equipment

While RFID tags can be used to monitor the movements of patients and staff within a ward, it can also be used to label critical equipment like ventilators, or items that inconveniently lost, such as marker pens. By tracking high-value movable medical equipment and life safety equipment, hospitals can ensure emergency preparedness, and by tracking items that are often lost between wards, staff can ensure that seamless changeovers between shifts, with minimal disruption to operations.


Innovative labelling systems and tracking technologies can be used in conjunction with one another for a variety of applications, such as:


- Monitoring which ventilators are in use at any given time

- Keeping view of oxygen levels in tanks across wards

- Tracking the whereabouts and status of laundry items such as bedding (is it in the right ward? Has it been washed?)


Mobility technology works to make your equipment visible in a way that will enable you to transform your operations. We don’t expect you to know the specific tagging or tracking technologies needed – although that is always a plus – we just need a few minutes to understand your processes, so that we can offer specialist, tailored advice.


Security

RFID technology can be used to make hospitals more safe and secure. A huge part of his is managing access throughout hospital wards; for this outcome, we see Trusts using RFID smartcards, wristbands or tags, accompanied by smart readers and scanners. This technology continues to be especially useful when used to to prevent the unauthorized withdrawal of new-born babies, restrict unauthorised or underqualified staff from accessing certain parts if the hospital – such as drug stores - and in dementia wards where confusion and disorientation can cause patients to go missing or become disruptive.

As alluded to in the above paragraph, there is such a diverse range of applications for this technology. It’s always worth consulting someone experienced at rolling out this technology, in order to better understand where to invest, and ensure efficiencies are being proven and developed along the way.


RFID is simple, affordable and effective. It can critically improve healthcare facilities, for the benefit of staff, patients and overall business efficiency. Should you be interested in exploring ways of improving your healthcare facility using innovative technology, book a free Conneqt meeting with our Healthcare specialist Mark Gilkes, or Contact Us for more information.

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