RFID Tracking Prevents Patient Misidentification in Hospitals

hospitalStudies show that almost 200,000 Americans die each year because of potentially preventable, in-hospital medical errors. "If the Center for Disease Control's annual list of leading causes of death included medical errors, it would show up as number six, ahead of diabetes, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease, and renal disease," said Dr. Samantha Collier, vice president of medical affairs for HealthGrades, a healthcare quality company. And many of these errors occur because of patient misidentification.

But what if there was a way of identifying and tracking patients that didn't rely so heavily on the human factor? More and more, hospitals are using radio frequency identification (RFID) during a patient's stay, preventing many of these medical errors and ensuring that resources are utilized at the highest level.

Problems Due to Patient Misidentification

Here are some of the problems that can occur when patients are misidentified before, during, and after medical treatment in a hospital or clinic:

(1) Improper medication dosages
(2) Possibility of invasive procedures performed on the wrong person
(3) Inaccurate lab work
(4) Lab results reported for the wrong patient
(5) Medical misdiagnoses
(6) Serious medication errors

Any or all of these problems can increase patient mortality or saddle someone with chronic health problems. And once these mistakes make their way into a patient's record, they can be tough to remove.

Challenges Linked to Patient Tracking

When a patient is admitted to the hospital via the emergency room or for a scheduled procedure, staff must then start allocating resources for that person. But most patients don't remain in one room or even one department within the hospital, they spend their time on the move. So for hospital staff, knowing where each person is in real-time can mean that everyone stays on schedule and patients receive needed medical care at just the right time.

RFID: The New Way to Track Patients in the Hospital

RFID can be that real-time tracking solution. The combination of efficacy and affordability of RFID tracking is driving many hospitals to integrate this technology within their patient care system. The patient admission process is expedited, giving access to medical care faster and the patient's status can be easily updated across every department in the hospital.

These are some of the components of an RFID tracking system.

RFID enabled wristbands. Similar to the hospital wristbands of old, these bracelets include an RFID tag which serves as the antenna. RFID ags can be passive or active, but most of the current systems use the passive type of RFID. That means that the reader must have some type of power source that will "wake up" the RFID tag when in close enough proximity.

RFID readers. The readers can be mounted on walls, doorways, or ceilings, or can be mobile handheld devices used at nurses stations, in patient rooms or at admission desks. The RFID reader allows a hospital staff person to view a stored patient record, but may also provide the ability to add notes and important data.

As RFID tag and reader costs continue to fall and the technology matures, more and more patient care settings will implement RFID tracking. That's good news for Americans with a hospital stay in their future.

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