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RFID Helps Manage Hospital and Pharmacy Inventories, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The Coronavirus pandemic has shown how critical it is to stay on top of hospital supplies and drug inventories.  RFID (radio frequency identification) is a huge breakthrough in hospital inventory management.  RFID systems are based on the placement of microchips in product packaging.  These chips, continuously broadcasting product identification data, are used with special sensors in handheld devices or on shelves that alert a central inventory management system about product usage and the need to restock inventory.  From loading docks to stockroom shelves to the hospital floor, radio frequency readers wirelessly track the movement of each and every item, replacing bar codes.  These systems lead to fewer out-of-stock situations and the elimination of costly manual inventory counts.
SPOTLIGHT:  The Hospital Patient Smart Room
A professional organization, the RFID in Healthcare Consortium, has been formed to promote development in this field.  The group has developed a concept called the Hospital Patient Smart Room.  It utilizes RFID to validate patient information, reduce errors and optimize patient data.

     The Johns Hopkins Hospital adopted RFID in order to track bags of intravenous fluid, one of the thousands of possible applications that could save the medical industry vast sums currently lost due to mistakes in the prescription, storage and delivery of drugs.  RFID chips and the scanners that look after them are rapidly becoming smaller and cheaper and are steadily being adopted for more and more items in hospitals and pharmacies as costs fall.  Beyond the monetary savings through better inventory control, RFID systems save some of the many people who die every year due to errors in prescription drug delivery.
RFID tags implanted in the wristbands worn by hospital patients also reduce patient identification mistakes, thereby reducing instances of errors in treatment.  Data gathered electronically from RFID systems is integrated with enterprise-wide computer systems throughout the hospital, including the pharmacy.
Many medical innovations using RFID are becoming widespread.  For example, “med carts” equipped with computers and bar code scanners allow nurses to scan patients’ identifying wristbands to verify identity and medication orders, improving safety and efficiency.  These carts are evolving to use RFID instead of bar codes.  In addition, examination and operating rooms are now often equipped with wireless laptops that transmit on-the-spot notes and evaluations for each patient to a central information system.

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