RFID Solutions & Applications
RFID for Healthcare
Hospitals and the medical care industry in general are adopting asset tracking technology to track equipment, to track patients including baby tracking, to track staff, and to ensure patient’s receive the correct medicines and care – all in an effort to reduce expenses and save patient’s lives. RFID technology is key in increasing these efficiencies.
Most hospitals and medical facilities start by tracking equipment. We’re talking about tracking infusion pumps, beds, wheelchairs, heart monitors, and larger pieces of equipment that are absolutely critical to the efficient work flow of the orginization.
Since healthcare facilities invest such large amounts of capital in equipment, it is critical that the equipment is available when required; otherwise, staff waste time searching the facility to find the equipment they need, or the institution acquires additional equipment to compensate for constantly misplaced equipment, or, in the worst case, patient health is compromised.
RFID solutions can resolve these issues. The RFID solution may be as simple as simple as attaching an RFID tag or transponder to each piece of equipment and strategically locating readers throughout the area of operations where the hardware is used. In this way, any device or patient can be located anywhere in the facility. The result: less time wasted, better utilization of existing assets and improved patient care.
There are three primary components to RFID technology; the RFID reader or interrogator unit (that includes an antenna and transceiver), the RFID tag or transponder (a.k.a. transponder) which is attached to the item being tracked and middleware software that communicates with existing enterprise systems. When the reader sends a signal using a specific predetermined frequency, the tag comes to life and sends back information to the receiver and, in essence, allows the two items to communicate.
There are two primary categories of RFID tags or transponder: passive tags and active tags
- A Passive RFID tag does not contain a power source. The tag is powered by the reader— by way of a magnetic coil within it which is activated when the reader calls to the tag, energizes the coil and in turn activates the circuits that hold the preprogrammed information in its memory
- An Active RFID tag has a battery source that powers the tag and its antenna.
A variety of factors will impact the decision to utilize a specific tag type. These include environmental conditions, application purpose, and the degree of accuracy required when locating an item or person.
The diagram below illustrates a typical example of equipment tracking on a hospital ward using passive RFID.
Passive RFID gives an organization the ability to recognize and record when an RFID tag or transponder is in the proximity of an RFID reader's antenna. Antennas can be installed wherever an organization wants to record the presence of an RFID tag. Antennas can be installed anywhere in a facility and quite often are since no two organizations' requirements are the same. Typically RFID antennas are installed at what we refer to as 'choke points' such as a doorway.
Passive RFID tracking can deployed to track people and things. People can either carry a card encapsulating an RFID transponder or wristband with a built-in RFID transponder. Assets can be tagged with normal RFID tags or special tags for metallic equipment.
LocateWare software is use to relate the location with the tag id and a time stamp. The last appearance of a particular tag is used to locate the person or asset. RFID readers are mapped within a facility identifying specific locations. LocateWare stores and reports the date and time a specific reader has interrogated a specific tag. Reports can be generated to report the last known location of a specific tag as well as the history of all tag movements.
Another approach to this solution using Active RFID technology is illustrated below
Active RFID provides constant visibility of people and objects equipped with active RFID tags or cards. Active RFID readers are actually listeners. Active RFID readers are placed in areas or zones wherever people or objects need to be monitored and tracked.
Active RFID tags beacon. There are different types of active tags. Some active tags can be set to periodically beacon while other tags will periodically beacon as well as beacon on movement. Alarms can be generated for unauthorized movement of tags at specified times. For inventory counts, tags can automatically wake up and report their presence on a periodic basis. If a tag misses its scheduled check-in time, an alarm can be generated.
LocateWare for hospitals and clinics is an application specifically designed for RFID implementations. This host-based software runs on a standard Windows OS (ME, 2000, or XP) based PC and is tightly integrated with active readers. A wireless connection between the active RFID reader and host computer saves installation labor and time.