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RFID technology works wonders in hospitals
Hospitals are using RFID-enabled real-time locating systems to improve patient flow, to reduce the number of patients who leave the ED without being treated, and to get a better handle on inventory. Sometimes that also saves lives, notes a recent feature in HealthLeaders Media.

“Whether it’s a stroke patient or they have a ruptured aneurism and they need to be treated, we need to know we have the right-size coils or the right device to deliver that high-level care,” says Robert M. Sheridan, director of interventional radiology at the 508-bed Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.

The hospital estimated it had about 90% accuracy when it came to keeping track of supplies using a bar-code system and manual inventory counts. It turns out that estimate was wrong; after deploying RFID tracking, MGH discovered its accuracy rates with manual counting had actually been about 80%, reports HealthLeaders Media.

At Wilmington, Delaware-based Christiana Care Health System, hospital officials are using a real time location system (RTLS) to track patients and discovering the manifold benefits of the technology. “When patients arrive at one of Christiana Care’s two EDs, they’re pinned with an RFID badge that tracks their movement through the continuum of care. Real-time tracking allows the organization to measure interval data – the time between a patient’s arrival to the time they see a doctor or a nurse, or to the time the doctor orders labs or an x-ray, or to the time those results are available to be communicated back to the patient,” the publication reports.

“Each of these discreet data elements is fed into a centralized data warehouse that is integrated with data from other systems within the hospital. The RFID system is interfaced with CPOE, laboratory, and radiology systems so that, for example, the lab or radiology department is alerted to new orders and the clinician knows when the results are ready and where to find the patient to deliver them,” HealthLeaders Media adds.

At Ohio State University Medical Center, officials are taking RFID a step further, not only making it easier to find equipment, but also using the technology to deter and detect theft and even to make sure small but expensive devices don’t get mixed in with soiled linens and thrown away.

The RFID tags also prevent another common hospital problem: hoarding. “There are pieces of equipment that previously were hard to find and in demand. So you have clinical staff hiding them in a closet so they knew where it was. Now they don’t have to do that; they can look on a map and see where it is,” Chad Neal, director of technology at the six-hospital system in Columbus, OH, commented to HealthLeaders Media.