by Nilesh Padhi and Shashikant Patil
With the basic purpose of storing identifying information the RFID devices have been effortlessly adopted by the medical industry. Hospitals are among the first users to combine both active and passive RFID.
The basic nature of implementation of the RFID in the hospitals are in the form of IC identification cards for the hospital staffs which can be used as a key for doors and rooms with proper privilege access. In some hospitals, these IC cards are also given to patients who are not able to communicate; not just for identification purpose but also for prescription information facilitating electronic medical records.
Mainly, the RFID technology is used in the medical industry for tracking staff, patients and medical equipment. Since medical equipment is very expensive, effective tracking of equipment is advantageous to the hospital. Sometimes the equipment is not used for a long time, with RFID tags this equipment can be tracked when needed which in terns save a lot of time.
With RFID tags incorporated with browser-based software, an RFID real-time based system can be facilitated which collects real time data relevant to each piece of tracked equipment or personnel. The data retrieved is then stored and archived for facilities seeking to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs. With the technology at an open source stage, many hospitals have found clever ways to make this technology useful for improved functioning. A hospital in Texas, USA uses RFID tags to track patients and staff. Those who had any contact with patients suffering from a dangerous infectious disease like tuberculosis are tracked and an alert is sent to those who need to be screened.
The use of RFID to prevent mix-ups between sperm and ova in In-Vitro Fertility (IVF) clinics is also being considered. In some of the hospitals the RFID is used for reducing supply overstock, which is a problem faced by the hospitals which indirectly make health care expensive.
With the technology in development stage many different types of RFID tags are being developed that can be used more efficiently in the medical industry. Such as RFID tags that are soft and have antibacterial coating, tags that can be sterilized and tags shaped like a thread that can be attached with an absorbent gauze that use endoscope to track the movement of the device, which greatly improves safety. Even though the applications of RFID in medical industry is emerging. But still less than 10 percent of hospitals have warmed up to RFID technology. The main reason behind it is the cost effectiveness of the system. The cost for the tags and RFID readers is very high when compared with the conventional barcodes which can be printed at a very low cost. Though the technology is very promising, with time and more development the RFID technology can see vast usage in the medical industry.
Nilesh Padhi is currently pursuing a B.tech in electronics and telecommunication engineering from SVKMâ€™S NMIMS, Shirpur, India. He is also associated with IEEE Power and Energy Society of Shirpur chapter. His research interest includes image and video compression, image processing, wireless and satellite communication.