Why are Auto ID technologies such as RFID beneficial for the medical industry?
First, and most important, Automatic Identification and Data Capture technology (AIDC) conquer different industries step by step. So, why it should not be used in the medtech industry? Therefore, you gain now insights in five use cases of identification systems in the medical sector. Finally you learn how RFID and vision systems support critical processes in hospitals and the ecosystem.
Content overview of RFID in medical applications
- Bed Management: Sterilized beds available when needed
- Linen Management
- Tracking of surgical instruments
- Traceability in CSSDs
- Patient Identification and medication
1. Efficiency in Bed Management. Sterilized beds available when needed
Never before in our lives we got better information about free or occupied beds in hospitals. The reason is the Coronavirus pandemic and its effects on intermediate care units for respiration in severe progression of the disease. Above all, sterilized hospital beds are mandatory for infection control. However, sterilized beds cannot be stored forever. If they are not in use, the hospital personnel must sterilize them again after a certain time period. Finally, in case of an infection, traceability of beds helps for root cause analysis. Therefore many hospitals and companies in the medical industry are optimizing their processes and benefit from RFID.
The process follows a closed loop system. Firstly, once a bed comes from the central storage it passes an RFID gate and is checked out. Secondly, after the patient left the hospital, the bed goes through sterilization, where all steps can be written on the tag. Thirdly, it’s transported back to the central storage ready for the next patient. As conclusion, the use of RFID allows full transparency of each bed’s condition and position. On the one hand it reduces manual paper work. On the other hand it also reduces failures. This leads to an increased efficiency in bed management.
2. Linen management (RFID in clothes)
Not only the bed itself, but also linen and medical clothing pass through washing and sterilization. Also this is a critical process with demand for seamless documentation. Outsourcing Linen Management to third party companies is very common. So, these companies are responsible for clean linen and clothing on time. To close the loop, special RFID tags are woven in medical clothes and linen. This results in some requirements on the tags: They must withstand detergents, water and heat. However, with RFID systems, the contracting medical linen service companies ensure that all items go to the right customer along with all cleaning information.
3. Know where your surgical instruments are in operating theaters.
Who does not know x-ray-pictures showing scissors that have been forgotten in the body during a surgery? Therefore, during each surgery nurses fill lists with all instruments used during the procedure.
- This may be done manually which leads to additional people in the hospital. Also there is some chance of failures.
- Second, and this is an option that is widely used on medical instruments, QR-codes are laser marked on scissors, scalpels etc. After use , they are scanned with a camera and checked out again. Optical identification offers some advantages. 1. They can be very small in size. 2. They are easy to apply. On the other hand they come along with some disadvantages led by the fact that used instruments are often covered with blood so that the code can not be read.
- Third, RFID can be used. It is not as widespread as QR-codes but is superior to optical technologies in this application. Not only that information can be read even when the tag is fully covered. It is also possible to do bulk reading. This means that multiple tags can be read at once. The must be placed in front of a camera. It is enough that the pass the RFID read/write head.
4. Transparency in your Central Sterilization Service Departments
In one of my previous articles I already wrote about the advantages of identification systems in CSSDs (please read here)
5. Patient information for therapy (diabetics, radiological)
Another field of RFID in medical applications where both, patient and hospital personnel benefit from the use of RFID systems is the connection of patient and individual therapy.
- Patients that need hemp-dialysis need to get their individual therapy. With ID cards they can “connect” to the machine and verify their identity. The matching program starts and supports patients’ health.
- In another case, patients need radiological therapy for cancer treatment. The more accurate the patient is positioned, the better the therapy may apply. Patients can be identified together with the setup of the machine and the positions of the radiological table.
RFID in Medical Applications – A summary
In short, RFID makes it’s way into the medical industry. On the one hand it offers advantages in the application. For instance it still works under extreme conditions (temperature, chemicals (cleaning), blood covered (surgical instruments). On the other hand it helps to meet the high requirements for traceability and documentation.