What Is Healthcare RFID?

Types

Three basic types of RFID technologies are utilized by the medical community. Passive tags are not powered. These tags rely on the proximity of an RFID reader in order to relay their information. Active tags utilize a self-contained battery power supply to transmit information. Semi-passive tags utilize a battery power supply, but use the power for data collection rather than transmission. A reader is required to access the information stored on a semi-passive tag.

Size

RFID tags have benefited from the micronization of integrated circuitry. RFID tags come in a range of sizes based on the item being tagged. According to Technovelgy.com, Hitachi owns the record for the world's tiniest RFID tag at just 0.05 x 0.05 millimeters, which is thinner than a human hair.

Function

Medical RFID tags can provide a variety of functions. They may be used to track shipments of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals from the manufacturer to the end user. They may be used to help locate and identify expensive medical equipment within a medical facility. Some RFID tags may be embedded with a patient's medical history and implanted under the patient's skin, giving health care workers instant access to important medical information.

Benefits

The application of RFID technology holds numerous benefits to the medical community. Tagging controlled substances can help to reduce theft and also help ensure that end users receive genuine rather than counterfeit products. RFID tags can provide important security benefits for parents of newborns. Infants tagged with an RFID ankle bracelet cannot be removed from the hospital without permission. RFID technology can help health care providers work more efficiently, which helps to save time, money and lives.

Considerations

RFID technology requires a significant front end investment by the health care institution in both equipment and training. RFID systems are typically composed of RFID tags or chips, RFID readers, the middleware necessary to capture and process the RFID signals and the software required to run the applications that utilize the information received. Significant time resources are required to train the staff to use the system effectively. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is technology that allows users to collect data regarding a specific item based on a radio signal transmission.

The concept for RFID is not new. The technology was originally developed during World War II as a means of identifying friendly aircraft from enemy aircraft. In the 21st century, RFID is used by a wide variety of industries, including the medical community, to track and identify assets as well as to convey valuable information.