RFID tops the chart in medicine with vastly increased safety, efficiency and RO
Atsushi Koshio is Director of Healthcare Business at medRF, a wireless health strategy consultancy
based in Tokyo. He has a finger on the pulse of Japan‘s healthcare industry, where wireless
solutions have flourished since the 1990s. Mobile technology, he thinks, has the potential to change
healthcare. But the kind of wireless technology that could make the greatest impact, radio
frequency identification (RFID), has not been widely adopted.
RFID is not just key to making better use of physical assets,‖ says Koshio. ―It can have a
substantial impact on patient safety. It also has the potential to produce a phenomenal return on
investment. But high up front costs are still proving to be a significant barrier to entry, given the
state of the economy.‖
Cost of entry for RFID may be high relative to other kinds of wireless technology but so are returns,
believes Jorma Lalla, whose company Nordic ID has been busy optimizing RFID technology for the
past 15 years. The CEO of the Salo, Finland-based RFID mobile computer manufacturer sees change on the horizon. ―As the technology becomes more ubiquitous, prices drop across the board
– on tags, readers and associated devices,‖ he says. ―Other supply chains are now using RFID
end-to-end and I think that it won‘t be long before we see wholesale adoption in the field of
medicine. Besides, it‘s a perfect fit with the criticality of healthcare.‖
RFID key to trackable processes and data
When human lives hang in the balance, RFID may indeed be a perfect fit. RFID tags have the
capacity to record new data almost indefinitely, resulting in mountains of information attached to the
item or person in question, reducing the possibility of error and obviating the need to scan and
connect to a remote database.
RFID tags can form part of a hospital wristband, a blood product label, a biomedical implant or any
medical device. They can be tiny or large, immersible or flexible. Unlike barcodes, tags can also be
read from meters away, for example by an interrogator mounted on the ceiling or beside a door.
Koshio and Lalla both agree that affordability is the single largest barrier in the health sector
worldwide. ―But it‘s definitely where wireless use in healthcare will end up,‖ says Koshio. ―The
advantages of RFID over any other technology are just so overwhelming.‖
RFID increases blood tracking safety & efficiency
To date, RFID has made some important inroads in various healthcare niches around the world. At
a blood processing center on the Spanish island of Mallorca, for example, RFID has increased
efficiency, safety and maximized the use of a perishable resource.
Traditional, barcode-based blood product tracking meant unpacking crates of frozen blood bags
and scanning or reading each bag in turn—no small task with 30,000 bags packed 80 to a crate in
a deep freezer. A complicating factor is that each bag was tagged with up to six barcodes as it
passed through the stages of its journey. These all needed to be scanned at each step.
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