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Tracking Critical Medical Equipment With RFID: 5 Tips

Critical medical equipment often can’t be found when it is urgently needed. In this post, we break down how to use RFID to keep track of such important assets.

Hospitals across the country are dealing with significant fluctuations in demand for medical supplies and services. Many healthcare facilities are understaffed. And supply shortages mean the most essential assets are in constant use.

In this kind of environment, it’s critical to keep track of essential medical equipment. When clinicians are relying on these devices, and there’s a strain on the supply, that’s a problem. If you lose one respirator, how many patients does that affect in the course of a month?

Because of this, hospitals, temporary facilities and other healthcare organizations are looking for better ways to track medical devices.

RFID can provide real time location data for critical assets, making it easier to locate equipment quickly. Clinicians can spend their valuable time providing care rather than searching for equipment.

With the right RFID system in place, hospitals can find critical medical devices faster and more reliably. Here are five tips to effectively track your most important medical equipment.

5 Tips for Tracking Critical Medical Equipment

 Identify What Equipment You Want to Track

The first step to deploying a medical RFID system is to identify what equipment you want to track and how precisely you want to locate it. To some extend this will determine what sort of system you need so you can get the right amount of precision for the equipment you’re looking for. The goal is to build your system around what you’re trying to accomplish.

This process answer the following questions:

  • What equipment do you want to track?
  • How precisely do you want to locate your assets?
  • How do you want the position information to be presented to the user?

As with any system, there are tradeoffs between the locating precision and cost.  More precision requires higher priced transponders, or a denser sensor network to detect the tags.

To deploy an RFID system in your hospital, you’ll need three components in place.

First, you’ll need RFID software that can collect location data and present the info to users in a useful way. This could be a map with the current or most recent location of the assets. The key takeaway is that the software needs to provide easily obtained and intuitive location information to your clinical staff.

Second, you’ll need a reader network to identify your assets and send data to the software. You’ll need a network of readers to cover the area of the facility in which you want to locate the assets.

The final element of the system you will need is RFID tags to mount on your assets. You’ll need to tag every device you want to track.  Once you have the software and reader infrastructure in place, it is relatively easy to add more devices & tags to the list of items you want to track.

System integrators and RFID manufacturers can provide hospitals with the necessary components to deploy an RFID system. Some providers will supply software, readers and tags. Others will specialize in one field and provide the components directly or through channel partners.

Identify What Kind of Tags You Need

To deploy RFID in your hospital, you’ll need to mount RFID tags on the equipment you want to track. If you want to optimize the benefits of an RFID system, the RFID tag at the center of it needs to align with your asset management process.

There are a number of factors that impact a tag’s suitability for an application, including:

  • Materials & interference
  • Durability
  • Dimensions & footprint
  • Cost requirements

It’s important to make sure the integrator or tag supplier are providing advice on what the appropriate tags for the assets and applications are. The knowledge to make the right choices is specialized, so it’s crucial to be able to rely on the engineers building the system for this.

Identify How Many Tags You Need

RFID tag orders are often in the tens or hundreds of thousands. If you assess how many tags you’re going to need ahead of time, you might be able to save on costs by leveraging economies of scale.

You’ll need to work with a tag manufacturer who’s willing to produce tags at a scale appropriate for your project. Some manufacturers aren’t interested in projects with a modest volume of tags.

Consider the Place of Origin

An important factor to consider when procuring medical RFID tags is where your tags are coming from. Choosing a domestic supplier who can provide close support can make your deployment easier.

Optimize the Business Process

There will be some changes needed to your processes for tracking equipment, but the goal of any RFID deployment is to streamline the task of tracking your critical medical assets. RFID enables automated and accurate collection data with minimal effort from the hospital staff.  It will enable your clinicians to spend less time on tasks that are not caregiving while improving the quality of the data about your critical assets.

Conclusion

With the right RFID system in place, hospitals can find critical medical devices faster and with less effort. But to achieve the optimal result, you will need to define your goals so that the RFID system can be well matched to your requirements.

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