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RFID Technology Improves Patient Care Management

RFID tracks patients leaving their bed to improve their care. Sensor data tells hospital staff when a patient is no longer on their mattress. This signals that either the patient fell from or left their bed. It also detects how often they leave and even how many times they turn over during the day. If a patient is confined to their bed and they can’t get up without assistance, an alert sounds that tells staff that something is wrong when the patient’s presence is no longer sensed. If a patient leaves their bed and doesn’t return for a while, this tells the staff that they need to check on the patient. This level of tracking is just one way that technology is making nursing and home care much easier. It reduces the possibility of liability lawsuits from alleged neglect at a facility, as well as gives the patients care and peace-of-mind to their families. [1]

Nursing homes aren’t the only facilities that can benefit from tracking technology. Hospitals, hospice centers, and assisted living centers can benefit in different ways. Even at-home elder care services can keep track of their clients, helping the elderly stay home and independent longer than they would otherwise. RFID technology is making this possible by providing healthcare facilities and services with these benefits:

  • Alert the staff of a patient emergency
  • Keep track of patients as they move around the facility
  • Easily track patient medication and administration
  • Integrate with a medical billing system
  • Avoid mistakes, such as medication overdoses

The most efficient way to track a patient is through a wearable device scanned by a scanner connected to the tracking system. Each time medicine is administered or specific care performed, the bracelet is scanned. Scanning can also be done to ensure meals are delivered, rounds are made, and vitals have been checked accordingly. In addition, wearables can ensure that resident arrivals and departures are recorded. The bracelet must be scanned when residents leave and when they return. This ensures that they’re where they’re supposed to be when they’re supposed to be there. This system can also prevent patients from leaving the facility.

This type of system has become very useful when making sure Alzheimer’s and dementia patients don’t wander off. At the same time, RFID has given dementia patients more freedom. RFID wearables give those that are well enough to remain in the residence section of a facility the ability to mingle with others. If the dementia patient approaches a certain boundary or crosses it, the staff is immediately alerted so the patient can be quickly retrieved. [1]

RFID Hospital Tracking Programs

While the results in nursing homes and residential care facilities are proving to be promising, the same can be said for hospitals. The Mayo Clinic’s Saint Mary’s Hospital has constantly sought improvements to automated patient care. This includes expanded applications of RFID. The goals of integrating this technology were to reduce costs and improve care delivery. To make it as easy as possible, the program was rolled out in stages throughout 2015. When rolling out a tracking program at the staff and patient level, it’s best to have a good strategy in place. The first step of this strategy is creating a team that consists of nurses, doctors, systems engineers, informaticians, project managers, IT personnel, and others that are relevant to the program. This team can help identify the barriers that must be addressed by the integration of RFID technology. For instance, patients leaving their beds and wandering around may be an issue. Tracking the patients can get them back to their beds quickly before they become injured. [2]

The group should address potential obstacles, such as the possibility that an RFID scanner could interfere with an ECG machine. However, Saint Mary’s found that there was no adverse effect when using their chosen devices around these machines. Privacy concerns among patients may also come into play. It’s good to have a plan in place to ensure the benefits are effectively communicated to patients while assuring their information is still protected. It is especially important to relay information to patient caregivers since they tend to be the ones who are the most skeptical of the new technology that collects data about patients.

Once you have addressed these concerns, it’s time to integrate RFID technology into the existing workflow as smoothly as possible. This can be done in phases and include key staff members. There are ways to strategically launch the system so existing operations are minimally disrupted. The end result will be patients that are better cared for, staff members that are less overworked, and improved client satisfaction. Whether using such systems to track home health patients, residential clients, nursing home patients, or hospital patients, RFID tracking shrinks the margin for error.

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