Thursday, May 24, 2012

If the Device Moves, RFID Wins Out

It's great to have devices that move with a patient to offer care and monitoring.  But such devices create staff concerns.  When medical devices become mobile, when they are utilized in patient care, protecting them and keeping track of them becomes more important.  For makers of RFID, this problem means on the heavy medical asset front they can win the struggle against cheaper barcode solutions.

Some features of an RFID, identification and counting, are easily replicated on a simple barcode.  But more advanced features - location, distinguishing an authorized person from an non authorized person, are more amenable to RFID.  This is where Kalorama Information finds the higher relative cost of an RFID tag versus a standard barcode becomes important.  For some high end devices, Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) is used.  Medical asset tracking is one of the top areas where RFID offers  solutions for the main segments of the healthcare industry—hospitals and nursing homes, pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies. Kalorama, in its report on RFID technologies, identifies the market for RFID opportunities in the healthcare industry focusing on four
general market segments, in addition to asset tracking:
• Pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution/blood product distribution and
• Medical staff identification and tracking and patient identification and tracking
• Medical device RFID use
• Other areas including medical documents and patient records

Medical asset tracking, however, is the largest category in healthcare, with companies like 3M and Alien in the mix.  Kalorama finds that RFID is useful when the device is valuable and mobile such as a patient monitor or infusion pumps, knowing its location is important. If it's just an inventory concern, those device tend to see barcode use.  Barcode is still used far more in hospitals than RFID due to expense.  .