Radio Frequency Identification is a technology that uses radio waves for data collection and transfer, often without human intervention—and it is being increasingly used by healthcare organizations to potentially reduce risk.
Several particular areas of risk are infection control, physical security, asset management, real-time location services, and authentication (including tap and go access). Many organizations are seeking to streamline their organizations as much as possible, and provide the best experience to patients, families, and friends while enabling care providers to do their jobs without security being in the way.
While many of the currently available security solutions provide safeguards, several are considered intrusive, and there has been a push for contactless security. An additional goal is to reduce the risk of contamination of equipment and make it easier to clean and sterilize to prevent infections. There is also the need know where equipment is for better utilization, especially in a fast-paced environment such as a busy practice or hospital. A solution that uses radio signals, which negates the need to place sensors in controlled areas, and simultaneously does not require touch, is a net benefit to healthcare organizations.
Another important application involving RFID includes its efficacy in preventing medical errors. Results from performed studies have confirmed that RFID technology identification and confirmation approaches correctly identified medical staff, patient ID, and medication and blood sampling data in real time. In many clinical scenarios and interventions (administering IV medication, injections, and sampling blood) RFID technology was effective in recognizing individuals and medications.
Moreover, RFID has provided supplemental solutions: Walmart and the US Department of Defense have been using the technology to track inventory. A number of RFID-based authentication badges and tokens are available already for PCs, and integrate with existing desktop solutions. The MIFARE technology is currently being utilized for public transportation fare cards across the world.
Using RFID can also reduce the time needed to get a proper inventory of tagged devices, in terms of asset management and inventory. This could potentially be expanded to equipment tracking, specifically surgical equipment management and tracking. A current use is also for login and authentication: specifically for physical security/door access, or computer access. RFID can additionally be applied for real-time location services, along with Wi-Fi and other technologies.
For future purposes, there are three potential use cases that can improve patient engagement and the overall patient experience. Implantable devices, which can currently only give an ID number, will be able to deliver more sophisticated results when queried. This will ultimately save time, and be less invasive when checking the status of an implant.