RFID use is expanding in healthcare. How do you see it improving patient safety and clinician efficiency?
RFID technology can greatly benefit many levels of efficiency and safety in healthcare. Current strategies for RFID utilization have been primarily focused on asset tracking and inventory capabilities. Tracking the current location of expensive or unique equipment saves time in patient care scenarios while helping to decrease the shrinkage of resources and the need to replace “lost” equipment. This tracking ability can also be expanded to identify the current location of patients, staff, and visitors as they move to and from procedures and through the hospital. While this may seem like an invasion of privacy to some, it can improve workflow and patient safety. Protecting a confused patient from wandering or elopement on a busy floor can help keep patients safe. Providers and nurses are also able to quickly determine when patients return to their room from a procedure, so time is not wasted on tracking them down through phone calls, texts, or room checks.
Hospital Pharmacy has been an early adopter of RFID technology, using it to track medications in code boxes, anesthesia workstations, and other kits. This gives much greater visibility to identifying expired or recalled medications. I would expect to see this expand into the realm of receiving drug deliveries and uploading medication information into current inventory systems.
What are the current challenges in adopting RFID in healthcare?
Though RFID has been around for some time, there are some barriers for adoption and expansion of its use. One important issue is the lack of a universal RFID tag and reader format. Without standardization, there can be inconsistency or limits in tag readability across systems and extra data entry to achieve full functionality. This sometimes has hospitals investing in partial or multiple solutions for inventory management. There is also the need for the RFID system to integrate with multiple computer programs to ensure the information flows well to those who need it.
The range and accuracy of scanning systems also needs to be shown under multiple conditions found within the hospital. This can include areas of lead-lined walls, high magnetic fields, wide hallways, etc. Healthcare prides itself on accuracy and must be assured that the system will perform well under all conditions.
Where do you see the future of RFID in healthcare?
RFID technology can provide future benefits in the hospital system. These would focus on improving safety, accuracy, and compliance.
After tagging medications and incorporating that information into the EMR, I can track medications across all steps and systems throughout the hospital. This allows Pharmacy to comply with DSCSA requirements upon medication receipt and uploading inventory immediately into inventory systems. Pharmacy would be able to track the accuracy of medication preparation in the IV room by ensuring that the correct medications and diluents are chosen in drug preparation. Pharmacy and nursing would be able to track medications through the delivery process, making sure that the time and location of delivery are known to all, decreasing turnaround time, frustration, and remaking of medications. In the future, automated dispensing cabinets and medication carts equipped with RFID readers will be able to determine current inventory, lot, and expiration information on all medications housed in them.
Placing RFID readers in patients’ rooms will allow real-time nurse notification about allergy alerts or violations of the 7 Rights of Drug Administration. RFID integration in the EMR will also speed up and increase billing accuracy. This could remove this important step from the conscious workflow of people focused on the patient and automate the system.
Fresenius Kabi recognizes the importance of continually innovating the pharmaceutical industry with auto-identification technologies to support accurate, efficient data collection and safer patient care. We value the opinions of industry leaders in this field working to achieve this common goal.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the company they represent or Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC.