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RFID in Pharmacy

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According to Hunt, Puglia, & Puglia (2007), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is defined as a technology that makes use of electrostatic or electromagnetic coupling which is found in the radio frequency part of the electromagnetic spectrum, for the purpose of uniquely identifying an animal, person, or object. The use of RFID system has become very common in various industries because it has been found to be more efficient and effective than the barcode technology (Hunt, Puglia, & Puglia, 2007). Unlike the barcode technology, RFID does not require close proximity and line of sight to identify RFID tags. The tags can be read even when they are within a carton or any other container, and with this technology numerous objects can be identified simultaneously. RFID is comprised of two main parts: a reader which consists of a transceiver and an antenna, and a tag which is known as a transponder (Hunt, Puglia, & Puglia, 2007). By use of radio frequency waves, the antenna transmits a signal to activate the tag which in return transmits data back. The transponder contains the RF circuitry and data to be transmitted, and the transceiver transfers the data to a computer system (Paret, 2005). The transmitted data may provide location or identification information, or the specifics regarding the commodity tagged, like color, date of purchase, and price. Some products like drugs need additional network known as the Electronic Product Code (EPC) network (Maynor, 2006). The EPC identifies objects as unique entities and can enhance tracking of the product throughout its lifecycle (Maynor, 2006). This can always reveal the manufacturer of the tagged objects as well as their nature and condition.    

Many patients have been dying in hospitals because of medical errors that can be prevented (Brown, 2006). The health professionals need safer systems in hospitals to achieve their goals of treating patients successfully. RFID is very effective and efficient when dealing with health care issues such as accurate identification of patients, identification of specific drugs and apparatus, appropriate action of treatment, avoidance of theft, and avoidance of counterfeit drugs and apparatus (Brown, 2006). This paper is meant to show how radio frequency identification technology can contribute to establishing a smart hospital through reduction of errors, improvement of patient safety, and optimization of business processes (Rosenberg, 2006).  

RFID Compliant Hospital

According to Rosenberg (2006), many actors and assets of the hospital facilities need to be tagged with the RFID tags. So that the RFID technology can be meaningful: the medical apparatus must contain specific RFID tags, and it will be very important if the manufacturers put the standardized tags into the apparatus; the caregivers, nurses, doctors and other members of the medical staff should put on a smart badge which stores their employee identity number; before admission, each patient should be given a wristband that has the RFID tag containing information such as the patient’s unique code and digital picture; medical histories for all patients and other crucial documents must contain RFID self-adhesive labels with a unique number; all packages for drugs should bear RFID labels and these tags should preferably comply with EPC;  and the blood bags should contain RFID self-adhesive labels that hold a unique identifier and specific information regarding the type of blood (Brown, 2006). The application of the RFID technology can maximize the workflows, improve the care for patients, minimize the operating and unnecessary costs, reduce thefts, and avoid the misidentification of patients.

Identification of patients

According to Burke, & Weill (2008), it has become common that many patients remain misidentified during medical treatment at hospitals and other medical institutions. Health professionals are concerned with this issue because identification errors may result in prescription of wrong drugs or wrong dosage which may lead to health complications of the patient or even death. This usually happens when the laboratory results for the first patient, are taken to be the results of the second patient who is suffering from a different disease altogether. Healthcare professionals have found RFID technology as a technique that will be used to reduce the clinical errors and improve productivity and administration (Rosenberg, 2006). All patients are given wristbands that contain RFID chips during the time of admission. The RFID chip contains the patient’s unique identity number and relevant medical data such as the blood type of the patient, for efficient and effective treatment (Burke, & Weill, 2008).  However, care should be taken to avoid disclosing patients’ medical records. This is achieved by storing patients’ medical data in a more secure database and not in the RFID chip. The database links the relevant medical data to the patient’s unique identity. Through RFID technology, the patients can receive correct medication and in correct dosages (Brown, 2006).  

Blood tracking

Patients have been transfused with wrong blood type which leads to agglutination of the patient’s blood in the circulatory system. This is as a result of misidentification of both the blood and the patient to be transfused. Errors in blood transfusion frequently result in death of the patients (Burke, & Weill, 2008). Typically, blood transfusion errors occur during bedside check before transfusion. Studies have shown that errors in blood transfusion are common for surgical patients because of distraction and urgency (Rosenberg, 2006). Health professionals perform the bedside check by use of eye readable data which is unmanageable in operating theater. The surgical patients are usually unconscious and they may not be able to state their names. Bedside check during blood transfusion should be addressed by the RFID technology (Brown, 2006). This technology can be used to track the specific bags of blood for each patient to ensure the patients are transfused with the correct blood type. The RFID chip at the wristband contains the required information which corresponds with the information in the RFID self-adhesive label on the bag of blood. RFID self-adhesive labels contain unique identification numbers and the information of the blood type contained in the bag (Shepard, 2005). The identification numbers and information must be saved in a more secure database that contains details regarding the origin of blood and the intended patient.  The data from the RFID chip on the bag must match with that in the RFID chip on the patient’s wristband before blood transfusion takes place (Rosenberg, 2006).  

Operating theatre  

The most common surgical errors that are reported involve surgery on the wrong site or part of the body, wrong patient, or improper surgical procedure (Rosenberg, 2006). RFID technology will be the best option to ensure that proper operations are done on the right individuals. This can be achieved when the patients are given wristband containing RFID tags on admission. The RFID chips in these tags contain the patient’s digital picture and relevant personal information (Ahson, 2008). The digital photo enables the concerned health professional to confirm that they are dealing with the right patient, while the electronic record enables them to perform the right procedure of treatment. Health professional are instantly warned by the RFID computer system if there is a mismatch. Therefore, the operating theatre is made more efficient and safer because of the RFID tagging. RFID technology significantly reduces the costs and mistakes that occur during surgery.

Anti-Counterfeiting of Drugs  

A very serious issue that pharmaceutical companies and health care institutions are experiencing is the drug counterfeiting. The counterfeit drugs are dangerous to patients because they may contain harmful substances. It has been found that the pharmaceutical companies are losing millions of money to the counterfeiting companies every year (Burke, & Weill, 2008). Manufacture of counterfeit drugs and medical facilities can be avoided by use of RFID technology in the pharmaceutical companies and medical institutions (Reyes, 2011). The drug manufacturers should pack the prescription drugs together with specific RFID tags before the drugs are ferried to hospitals and other medical institutions.  In some cases, bottle, pallets and cases are manufactured with RFID tags which bear a unique number that is used to record the information regarding all transactions the product is involved in (Ahson, 2008). This gives an electronic lineage through the entire supply chain of the drug from the drug manufacturer to hospitals and other health care institutions (Reyes, 2011).

According to Reyes (2011), most manufacturers, drug stores, wholesalers, hospitals, and small retailers have acquired the RFID system and they can be able to verify the authenticity of their products by checking the database of the manufacture through the web. According to Maynor (2006), it will be crucial for the packaging of some products such as drugs be associated with additional networks like the Electronic Product Code (EPC) network in hospitals. The EPC compliant hospitals can be able to identify original drugs as unique entities and can easily track the product throughout its lifecycle to ensure that it is the right drug (Maynor, 2006). This can always reveal the manufacturer of the tagged objects as well as their nature and condition. These measures ensure that patients are given appropriate medication for good results.

Tracking Staff, Patients, Medical Equipment and Medical Documents   

The RFID technology has been found very effective for the fast and automated tracking of animals, people and assets (Shepard, 2005). This quality makes hospitals and other health care institutions to use the technology for efficient and effective tracking. The RFID compliant hospital is equipped with transceivers and antennas at strategic points such as entrances of recovery rooms, operating theatres, exists of important corridors, medical libraries, and main doors (Rosenberg, 2006). Due to the fact that important medical documents and histories are RFID tagged, the asset tracking application such as the RFID Locator makes it possible to locate the documents. This will significantly reduce the loss of medical documents both for patients and for the medical institution’s asset records. Therefore, this technology will avoid unnecessary costs as well disclosure of patients’ medical information (Rosenberg, 2006).

Assets tracking application makes it very efficient to trace and locate patients as well as staff members within the premises of large hospital. This can improve the workflow of nurses, doctors and other hospital staff (Rosenberg, 2006). They can also be located in real time and this is very important in hospitals with huge buildings. The RFID technology introduces an accurate and efficient inventory system because the tagged medical equipment can be traced and located easily. According to Want (2006), many corporate have used the RFID technology for updating their inventories. The RFID technology has been found to reduce assets loss which is considered the most often positive consequence. Finally, the tracking is very significant in averting vices such as theft.  

Avoid Theft of Equipment

Expensive and sophisticated equipment are purchased for use in hospitals and this calls for maximum security. Lots of medical equipment is stolen or misplaced within hospitals every year because most hospitals lack efficient locating and tracking techniques like the use of RFID tags and transceivers (Rosenberg, 2006). Before the stolen equipments are declared as stolen, employees will be required to search for the equipments everywhere within the premises and in the neighboring environment which wastes many hours. Some employees may also be required to re-order for the missing equipment and therefore they will be diverted from management tasks or patient care for some hours. Therefore, the misplaced or stolen equipment may waste many other resources such as time, apart from money. The use of RFID technology will be the most effective way to avoid this issue of stealing or misplacing the medical equipment in hospitals and other medical institutions (Rosenberg, 2006).

When the medical equipment contains the RFID tags, they can be tracked and traced easily which can save time and money for additional investment (Want, 2006). This can significantly reduce the risks of thefts because the technical staff will be aware of every apparatus’ exact location within the hospital premises. RFID tagging can be useful in identifying the stolen equipment and materials just like it can be used to detect the counterfeit equipment as well as drugs. If RFID tags are put at various points within the hospital premises like the main gate, they can help alerting the security personnel that medical materials and equipment stolen from the premises (Want, 2006). Earlier actions will then be taken to retain the medical equipment and avoid incurring unnecessary costs in re-ordering them. It has been found that the equipment and materials with more RFID tags will be detected easily therefore minimizing the chances of being stolen. Numerous RFID tags ensure that the thief cannot remove all the tags. It is also very important for the equipment to be manufactured with inbuilt RFID chips so that the thieves cannot be able to remove them (Yang, Rida, & Tentzeris, 2009).  


It is very critical to successfully manage large medical institutions like hospitals without employing advent technologies such as the Internet and RFID systems. These technologies can help reduce or avoid various problems that occur more often in hospitals other medical institutions. Some of these issues include accurate identification of patients, identification of specific drugs and apparatus, appropriate action of treatment, avoidance of theft in hospitals, and avoidance of counterfeit drugs and apparatus. RFID technology has been found very effective when dealing with these issues. Lives of many individuals have been saved because of better identification techniques, availability of enough medical facilities which are not stolen, doctors can be traced in real-time, and because the counterfeit drugs have been avoided due to RFID tagging.  Therefore, RFID technology is a necessity for improved health services to patients. 

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