RFID & RTLS Help Hospitals to Ensure Patient Safety

Technologies like radio-frequency identification (RFID) and real-time locating systems (RTLS) are already transforming how some hospitals operate and they are going to play an even bigger role in the hospitals in the future, yet they are still underused in healthcare.

In fact, beyond asset tracking and supply chain management, wireless technology can provide real-time data which can increase patient safety.

The best way to put RFID and RTLS to work is with an integrated, enterprise-wide approach. That isn’t easy. But the Healthcare Symposium, which held early this month, showcased best practices for putting the proper building blocks in place and then reaping their rewards: capturing data, aggregating it, analyzing it and extracting knowledge to drive efficiencies and improve care.

In the session, John Wass, CEO of Wavemark, Inc., showed just how important real-time information can spur better care delivery.

A hospital is “almost like a war environment,” said Wass: periods of quiet punctuated by dramatic and often chaotic situations where “everything is going crazy.”

In those situations, “real-time information is absolutely critical,” he said. One way of getting that information is via RFID — active or passive tags that can show whether a needed piece of equipment is there or not — and if it is nearby, where exactly it is. They can track critical medication, and tell whether it’s safe to administer or expired.

Wireless technologies allow caregivers “to focus on the patient,” rather than on time-draining administrative tasks, said Wass. In emergency situation, they can offer clear directives, preventing nurses and physicians from overreacting to stress.

In a “battle against time,” with “limited human resources,” he said, “automated or semi-automated data collection is critical to winning the battle.”