FDA small survey: Hospitals eye patient tracking

By Chris Gullo
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Awarepoint real-time dashboardA small FDA survey of nine hospitals found that the most popular use cases for RFID (radio frequency identification) technology are infusion pumps, portable monitors, wheelchairs, beds, and ventilators. Eight of the nine hospitals surveyed use RFID or RTLS (real time location services) technologies. These hospitals are part of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) MedSun network, which aims to identify and solve problems in primary care hospitals and healthcare facilities related to medical device use.

According to the survey summary, the FDA wanted to learn how RFID and RTLS systems operated in a hospital with various medical devices, including their usage, planning and deployment, location within the hospital, and whether there was interference between the systems and other medical devices.

Interestingly, "several" of the respondents expressed interest in patient tracking services: "Some reasons include tracking patients who may be confused or have a brain injury and also for tracking patients in the Emergency Department to avoid delays with x-rays and lab testing," the press release stated. "Two facilities are using RFID/RTLS technology to protect infants from abduction with a system that alarms when infants are taken outside of certain locations. In contrast, some respondents know that management and employee unions have concerns with implementing these types of systems. Additional comments relate to hospital cultures that are not ready to implement 'tagging patients' at this time."

Other insights from the survey include:

  • Most of the hospitals use RFID technology throughout the entire facility.
  • Most do not use RFID devices to track medications or other pharmacy products. (One respondent's facility uses bar codes for medication administration, and another expressed interest in using RFID to track expiration dates of medications.)
  • Times for transmitting information from the readers range from every millisecond to once every 10 minutes.
  • Minimal interference issues were reported using the devices.

Overall reaction to using RFID or RTLS was positive, and some respondents reported improved patient care.

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Read the FDA summary here.