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Medical Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Applications

27 February, 2012 | maintenance & installation, Medical Software

Medical RFID Applications - MedWOW.com

What is RFID?

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a system that wirelessly transmits the identity of any object or person (in the form of a unique serial number) using radio waves. It is recognized under a category of automated identification technologies that includes bar coding and intelligent sensors that can be used for different applications. Bar codes, optical character readers, and biometric technologies, including retinal scans, are some of the automated identification technologies that reduce the time and labor needed to input and manage data manually, which improves operations and data accuracy. The basic components of RFID technology are the tags and readers that collect, integrate, store and report the collected information.

How Does an RFID System Work?

With RFID, the electromagnetic or electrostatic coupling in the RF (radio frequency) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum is used to transmit signals. An RFID system consists of an antenna and transceiver, which read the radio frequency and transfer the information to a processing device (reader) and a transponder, or RF tag, which contains the RF circuitry and information to be transmitted. The antenna provides the means for the integrated circuit to transmit its information to the reader that converts the radio waves reflected back from the RFID tag into digital information that can be passed on to computers that analyze the data.

Passive and Active RFID Tags

In RFID systems, the tags that hold the data are broken down into two different types. Passive tags use the radio frequency from the reader to transmit their signal. Passive tags will generally have their data permanently burned into the tag when it is made, although some can be rewritten.

Active tags are much more sophisticated and have an on-board battery for power to transmit their data signal over greater distances and power random access memory (RAM), giving them the ability to store up to 32,000 bytes of data.

RFID Applications in the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare organizations are considering RFID for its potential to improve patient safety and business processes. RFID applications in the healthcare industry are focused on patient safety (identification and medication administration), business flow management, and asset/equipment management. The healthcare industry is realizing that patient safety and medication are the most important business benefits of RFID. There have already been organizations that have started pilot RFID applications for patient and worker identification, access control and security, and hospital equipment tracking.

A few years ago, an alarming statistic from an American healthcare organization was that an average of 200,000 people in the USA died in hospitals each year, as a result of potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors. It was said that “the problem is not bad people in the healthcare field, it is that good people are working in bad systems that need to be made safer.”