The benefits of using RFID tags for patient and medical equipment tracking in healthcare

In the world of healthcare, professionals work hard to make a difference in people’s lives and provide the best level of care possible. This isn’t always easy to achieve. With heavy demands on time and expertise, it’s necessary for the right equipment to be readily available and for patients to be actively monitored almost constantly.

The challenge of strategically resourcing medical devices to deliver optimum performance is one that is shared by healthcare organizations across the world. As is the desire to maintain a high level of oversight for sustained patient care and well-being.

The use of RFID tracking technology, combined with a comprehensive hospital asset inventory and patient tracking software solutions, is an excellent way to alleviate some of the pressure placed on medical professionals. But what are the benefits this technology offers, and how does it impact these different facets of operations in healthcare? Read on to find out how RFID tags can be used in hospitals and what they can mean for the future of hospital management.

How is RFID used in healthcare?

Using RFID technology in hospitals has two main applications. These involve the provision of RFID wristbands for patients and medical staff, as well as using medical device tags which are attached to equipment to locate healthcare assets across the hospital.

Put simply, RFID tags work by transmitting a unique identifier signal that “pings” with other nearby devices to tell them who or what and where they are. Think of it like the digital version of Marco Polo.

Creating a network of RFID tags allows a hospital to digitally inventory equipment, staff and patients, as well as providing the means to track them in real-time. Each wristband or device tag contains its own unique RFID chip, which identifies exactly who or what it is attached to. When combined with a Wi-Fi- or Bluetooth-enabled connection to the hospital’s network, this is a powerful and versatile tool that streamlines operations to improve patient care and staff well-being.

With increasing patient ratios comes an increased demand for the provision of healthcare services for more people. The constraints of budgets mean hospitals are limited in the number of medical professionals and assets that are available to provide this care, resulting in a strain on the healthcare sector. The use of innovative technologies like RFID tags and real-time location systems (RTLS) are an integral part of developing solutions that offset some of the pressure that threatens the future of hospital management.

Locating healthcare assets using RFID tracking tags

Healthcare asset location continues to be one of the main contributing factors to wasteful spending in the provision of healthcare. The inability to quickly and effectively find and utilize the right hospital equipment at the right time results in proper treatment being delayed or, in worst-case scenarios, completely prevented.

With the use of medical device tags, staff are able to swiftly and accurately pinpoint the necessary tools for the job at hand and ensure care can be administered in a timely manner. Implementing a comprehensive asset management system allows hospitals to increase the visibility and accessibility of equipment and assets. This not only means that all medical devices can be accounted for, but they can be more strategically positioned to facilitate optimal usage of resources and better hospital asset utilization.

Patient tracking using RFID wristbands

Fitting an RFID wristband to a patient offers several advantages in ensuring their healthcare is optimized during their stay in a hospital.

On top of easy patient identification, the wristband gives medical staff the ability to track a patient’s real-time whereabouts. Improved patient flow means their needs are attended to immediately for any reason — an emergency, tests, medication — they can be located quickly and precisely. In some circumstances, where a patient may be prone to absconding, staff can be alerted to the patient’s movement and intervene before their safety is jeopardized.

Features in the personnel tag include a programmable switch, which can be set to perform a variety of actions when pressed. A good example of this would be to have the switch send a distress alert to the hospital system — a useful application for elderly or frail patients at risk of falls that will require immediate assistance. Because the personnel tags communicate with one another via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), additional programming can alert any nearby staff with an RFID tag of their own to the situation, ensuring the patient will be attended to as swiftly and efficiently as possible.

Managing a medical asset inventory with RFID tags

Maintaining a precise inventory of all medical assets in a hospital is a vital part of optimizing operations. Using RFID tags to identify each item allows asset management to become more automated and accurate. By giving each piece of hospital equipment a unique digital identifier they can be logged and tracked using a centralized system. This system will allow staff to see exactly where equipment is, record its usage and report any issues, like need for servicing or repair. Reducing the need for manual administration as much as possible not only frees up time and resources, but provides more accurate information that staff can rely on with confidence.

At AiRISTA we have been providing RFID tags and RTLS solutions to hospitals for over 10 years. Our experience and refined approach has resulted in our recognition by Gartner as a Leader in the Magic Quadrant for indoor location. To find out more about how AiRISTA can help you get the most out of your medical assets and staff management, get in touch with us today.

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