Industries worldwide are experiencing an operational revolution with the integration of technology in their workspace. In healthcare, artificial intelligence (AI), databases, analytics, robotics, and the Internet of Things (IoT) can provide support with various tasks. An example may include physicians providing high blood pressure patients with a monitor that continually relays readings back to their office. Patient temperature checks and meal delivery are routine tasks that can be automated via robotic technology, which can be implemented through hospital management.What are the functions of RFID in medicine?
The use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is gaining momentum in the medical industry. This article delves into how RFID functions, its key applications in healthcare facilities, its tracking potential, its other uses in hospitals, possible limitations, and future possibilities.
What Does “RFID” Stand For?
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that utilises radio waves to transmit information from an electronic tag without requiring a physical connection. Its primary use is collecting and monitoring data.
Organisations like manufacturers, retailers, and logistics companies are some businesses that have adopted RFID technology, mainly for the purpose of tracking and identifying their equipment and other assets. For instance, factories that use RFID tags to monitor their stock can rapidly evaluate the quantity of a specific raw material they have available and when to order more.
Healthcare institutions can apply RFID technology to monitor their inventory of medical supplies and equipment, as well as track individuals within their premises.
How Does RFID Contribute to Patient Monitoring?
Even though the word ‘tracking’ can have a negative connotation, there are many circumstances in which hospitals need to monitor their patients. For instance, to assure parents of their newborn’s safety, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags can be attached to the babies. If an infant is taken out of a restricted area, an alarm will be triggered, and the system will locate the parent wearing the corresponding tag, enabling the child to be reunited with them.
Patients suffering from memory loss due to Alzheimer’s or dementia can also benefit from tracking systems. Often, such patients roam away from safe areas, where they can become confused or lost and potentially endanger themselves. Similar to infants, alerts can be sent to family members or medical personnel if the patient exceeds certain limits, allowing them to intervene and prevent harm.
Providing appropriate care to patients during their preparation for surgery is critical. Implementing RFID tags can assist in ensuring doctors recommend the appropriate treatments at the correct times and guaranteeing that each patient receives the correct surgical procedure.
What is the Role of RFID in Healthcare?
RFID patient tracking devices have a wide range of practical applications in the healthcare industry. From pre-operative checklists to everyday care, such as ensuring patients receive the correct medication or tracking their progress during recovery, RFID technology has been utilised to great effect. It can also be utilised for post-care, such as continuing to monitor patients after they are discharged. During the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals have implemented radio frequency identification (RFID) to track employees who had contact with infected patients.
RFID technology can be effectively applied to monitor stock levels. For instance, hospitals need to keep track of fluctuating drug stocks to ensure an adequate supply for treating patients. In contrast to the conventional approach of manual barcode counting, RFID tags provide a more efficient solution by removing the need for manual tallying and generating more precise stock counts.
Providing safe and effective healthcare requires ensuring an adequate supply of sterilised medical equipment and supplies, such as gauze, gloves, and vials. RFID tags can be employed to monitor the status of these consumables and the operation of surgical equipment and instruments.
The Challenges of Implementing RFID in Healthcare
The widespread adoption of RFID technology in healthcare is hindered by the possibility of their broadcasts interfering with biomedical equipment through electromagnetic interference (EMI). Such interference has been noted to cause vital medical equipment to shut down, thereby compromising the quality of care provided.
In the healthcare industry, data security is a critical issue due to the sensitive information that is regularly transmitted. If accessed by malicious actors or intercepted through other means, this data’s privacy could be put at risk. Thus, appropriate measures must be implemented to guarantee its secure transmission.
Some hospitals may have reservations about adopting RFID technology because of the substantial initial costs involved. The expenses incurred on tags, middleware, databases, servers, and applications can be high, and they can increase when the facility’s size grows, particularly if additional staff need to be hired or existing ones need to be trained in the system’s operation.
The Prospective Role of RFID in Medical Settings
There is a widespread acknowledgment that RFID technology will advance and thrive in the upcoming years, presenting additional advantages for healthcare professionals in various clinical settings. The following significant developments are worth noting:
- RFID labels with better adhesion for use on multiple substrates
- Highly sensitive RFID tags can track factors such as temperature.
- RFID tags that enhance data transmission accuracy
- Integration with current systems, most notably the Internet of Things (IoT), the cloud, and mobile applications
- Improved precision in tracking smaller objects.
- As a practical alternative to barcodes