RFID Technology: An Overview for Hospitals
With 18 years in healthcare IT and 12 years in IoT development, ScienceSoft designs and develops robust medical IoT systems for RFID tracking of hospital assets, patients, and medical staff.
RFID in Hospitals: Overview
If used for hospital asset, medication, patient and staff tracking, RFID technology is bringing benefits by cutting operational costs, streamlining hospital workflows and asset utilization, reducing medical errors, and improving patient safety.
Hospital RFID Tracking Market in Brief
The global medical RFID technology market is expected to amount to $14.65 billion by 2030, growing at a CAGR of 17.9%. The hospital RFID tech market boost is dictated by the increasing number of visits (due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the growing number of geriatric patients) and the need for more efficient hospital supply chain management.
How Medical RFID Tracking Works
- RFID tags (active or passive) – attached to or embedded into hospital assets or tracking bracelets/badges for patients, visitors, staff and transmit information on their location to RFID readers.
- RFID readers – located in hospital corridors, wards, etc., they identify the location of RFID tags and send this data to the cloud gateway.
- Firewall – to securely transmit collected data to the cloud server.
- Streaming data processor – to transfer the input data about hospital assets, patients, staff, etc., to a data lake.
- Data lake – to store the data about tracked patients, staff, and hospital assets sent by RFID tags in its original format.
- Big data warehouse – to store filtered and preprocessed data for further analysis of hospital staff workflow efficiency, movements of patients, medical asset utilization, etc.
- Data analytics – to identify patterns and tendencies in hospital asset use and movements of tracked people and provide insights aimed at improving asset availability, medical staff schedules, patient safety, etc.
- RFID tracking software business logic – to process hospital asset requests and high-priority events (e.g., the patient leaves the hospital premises without being discharged), provide information on the location of patients, visitors, and staff members, etc.
- Staff application – to enable the medical staff, equipment technicians, etc., to view locations of hospital assets and request them for use, get information on patient location, get alerts on the unusual patient or visitor behavior. The application also helps supervisors view locations of each hospital unit employee, get insights on workflow optimization, etc.
- Admin application – to view the list of monitored assets, tracked patients, visitors, medical specialists and information about them, add new assets, staff members, edit key data about tracked items and people, grant access to the asset tracking system for the medical and administrative staff, etc.
Applications of RFID Technology in Hospitals
Equipped with RFID tags, all medical tools (disposable and/or reusable) and durable assets (beds, medical equipment) are monitored in the IoT tracking system to ensure their availability. The information on their location can be tracked by the medical staff using a mobile or web application with a facility map.
Medication inventory management
RFID-enabled medication inventory tracking enables hospitals to timely spot medication shortages and expiration, prevent theft, and ensure the intended use of medication (due to use instructions stored in the tracking system).
RFID tracking helps medical staff to pinpoint the location of any patient in the hospital to ensure their safety and sustain the care process. Patient tracking is especially relevant in neonatal units, pediatric departments, mental health facilities, or for tracking geriatric patients.
Medical staff tracking
Medical specialists wear RFID-equipped bracelets or badges, and their locations and interactions are displayed for medical supervisors in IoT tracking software. This data helps the supervisors find the doctors or nurses in case of emergencies, identify bottlenecks in hospital workflows (e.g., lack of doctors in the ER), reduce overwork, etc.
Hospital visitors tracking
Hospitals can track visitors’ locations to ensure the safety of patients, prevent visitors from accessing surgery rooms or inventories, etc. Visitors are linked to patients and if the visitor is not located near the patient or in hospital common areas, an alert is sent to the hospital security.
Prediction of patient flow and hospital admission rates
Data accumulated in the RFID tracking system is analyzed to help hospitals predict patient flow, plan medical supply and equipment purchase, identify the hospital’s overall load, a load of its departments and individual doctors and nurses. Based on the analytics insights, the hospital management can adjust staff workflows, patient treatment schedules, surgeries plans, etc.
Essential Features of RFID in Hospitals
Storage of data about tracked people and assets
The system stores RFID tag information (a patient’s name, condition; a doctor’s position, name, working hours; a name of the patient for their visitor; an asset’s name, manufacturer, expiration date, etc.). Besides this information, the RFID tracking system stores real-time data on assets’ and people’s movements.
Via the RFID tracking system, healthcare specialists can view the nearest medical equipment or medication they need and access data on the location of patients and their visitors to improve treatment quality (e.g., find a patient if they miss a diagnostic procedure), safety (e.g., in case of emergencies like fire), and security (e.g., for newborns). For hospital supervisors, the data on medical staff location and movements is available.
Tracking analytics and reporting
The tracking system analyses collected data about hospital asset use duration, asset demand, movements of the medical staff, patients, and visitors around the hospital, and their interactions with each other. The analyzed data helps identify trends in people’s behavior and asset use patterns and derive ways to improve staff schedules, bed allocation, security measures, workflow optimization, asset availability, etc. The trends are visualized on dashboards and reported to responsible personnel (e.g., head of a hospital department, supply chain manager).
Alerts on unusual behavior
To monitor and improve hospital and patient safety, responsible employees get alerts on the identified suspicious behavior. For example, if there is an abrupt change in a patient’s movements (e.g., a patient is not moving on the stairs for 15 minutes), the IoT system makes the conclusion about an incident and sends an alert to a nurse. If a staff member is working after hours, the app notifies their supervisor to warn about an increased possibility of medical errors.
Asset state monitoring
To avoid asset shortage and malfunction, the RFID tracking system stores the data on expiration dates of essential medication and disposable items, maintenance schedules for medical equipment, etc., and notifies responsible personnel on upcoming maintenance or expiration.
Patient-doctor interactions control
RFID tracking software collects information on interactions between medical staff and patients to ensure that in-person monitoring and patient care are provided on time and with the right frequency (especially relevant for behavioral health facilities).
RFID Tracking: Project Example by ScienceSoft
A US-based chain of behavioral health facilities for patients suffering from severe mental health issues.
ScienceSoft’s team designed a solution that featured:
- A tracking dashboard with an integrated patient and staff location view, recent staff and patient activity.
- Floor plans of the behavioral facility with marked control areas, location of RFID readers, and locations of staff members and patients.
- Notifications about patients/staff members entering unsolicited areas, etc.
Medical RFID Tracking Challenges and Solutions
Smart patient tracking software collects location data, stores and processes sensitive information (patient data, medical conditions, etc.) that can be compromised.
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ScienceSoft recommends HIPAA-compliant development of RFID tracking software to ensure patient data safety. The safety of sensitive information in our projects is proven by ISO 27001 certificate, so the risks associated with revealing patient tracking information and patient databases are minimized.
Tracking can be interrupted if patients, medical specialists, visitors lose bracelets or badges with RFID tags.
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To identify these cases, an IoT system may analyze the location of RFID tags and notify responsible hospital personnel on unusual behavior (e.g., a doctor’s tag is in a corridor for several hours).
Daily hospital operations (e.g., sterilization of surgical tools, continuous use of tracking bracelets) may affect RFID tags, and the RFID tags may influence the performance of hospital equipment.
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In medical IoT projects, ScienceSoft’s experts evaluate all risks associated with the use of tracking software and hardware. To avoid RFID tag destruction, malfunction, and loss, we recommend embedding tags into high-use devices (e.g., scalpels, retractors) rather than attaching them to the surface. We suggest that our customers use passive tags in the settings where radio waves may influence medical processes (e.g., a surgical ward).
Investments and Cost Drivers
Core investment size factors
- Functionality scope of RFID tracking software (the cost of software combining asset, patient, and staff tracking will be higher than the cost of a patient tracking system).
- Feature complexity (e.g., implementation of advanced analytics increases the software cost).
- Using ready-made components (e.g., AWS IoT services) to build the RFID tracking system or going for 100% custom software development.
Cost factors associated with equipment
- RFID tags (active and/or passive).
- Embedding RFID tags into the tools, devices, etc.
- Setup of RFID equipment (readers).
- RFID readers.
- Cost of cloud services for the IoT system (e.g., for data analytics).
On average, a hospital RFID software for medical equipment tracking costs around $200,000 – $250,000+ and the pricing for RFID tracking of patients and medical staff ranges from $150,000 to $250,000+.
Medical RFID Tracking Consulting and Development Services by ScienceSoft
In IoT software development since 2011, ScienceSoft offers its advisory and development expertise to create reliable medical RFID tracking software for hospital assets, patients, medical staff, and hospital visitors.
RFID tracking consulting
What we do:
- Elicit functional and non-functional requirements for RFID tracking software.
- Plan RFID tracking software functionality.
- Design a flexible high-level architecture and integrations of RFID tracking software and choose an efficient tech stack.
- Calculate the cost, ROI, and plan RFID tracking software delivery timelines.
- Provide regulatory compliance guidelines (e.g., for HIPAA, HITECH regulations).
Development of RFID tracking software
What we do:
- Detail an RFID tracking software concept based on your high-level ideas or detailed requirements.
- Plan RFID tracking software functionality.
- Design scalable IoMT-based software architecture and integrations.
- Choose a tech stack and hardware (e.g., RFID tags, readers).
- Develop and test RFID tracking software upon the agreed schedule.
- Help comply with relevant regulations (HIPAA, HITECH, etc.).
- Plan the locations of RFID tracking devices or set up the tracking equipment.
- Support and maintain software (if required).
Headquartered in McKinney, Texas, US, ScienceSoft is an IT consulting and software development company certified according to ISO 13485 and ISO 27001 standards. With 18 years of experience in healthcare IT, we design and deliver medical software according to the requirements of the FDA and the Council of the European Union and offer robust IoT solutions to enable RFID tracking of hospital assets, patients, visitors, and staff.