Enhancing Patient Safety: A Focus on RFID Applications in Healthcare

Enhancing Patient Safety: A Focus on RFID Applications in Healthcare

Moutaz Haddara, Anne Staaby
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJRQEH.2020040101
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Internet of things (IoT) technologies are revolutionizing industries through enabling object identification, traceability, real-time communication, and monitoring. In healthcare (HC), IoT has potential to contribute to several areas, from patient-related smart services to medical logistics. One area of paramount importance in HC is patient safety, which includes the correct identification, treatment, tracking, and monitoring of patients. Published statistics suggest that there is a mounting number of patient mistreatments due to the erroneous identification of the patient or the drug administered. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is envisioned as a disruptive innovation in HC & represents several opportunities for increased safety. However, the adoption of RFID in HC still lags behind other industries. Through a literature review, the authors explore the potentials & challenges of RFID adoptions in HC, with a focus on patient safety. Our findings suggest that high costs of adoption, security & privacy concerns and human safety risks are the main barriers for adoption.
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“IoT [Internet of Things] is opening huge opportunities for new applications which promise better quality for our lives.” (Haddara and Elragal, 2015, p. 722). IoT refers to the interconnection of physical objects, by equipping them with sensors, actuators and means to connect to the Internet (Dijkman et al., 2015). Many research articles have postulated that IoT technologies have a potentially great impact on the healthcare domain. Xu et al. (2014) argue that IoT provides new opportunities to improve healthcare. When healthcare is powered by IoT's universal identification, sensing and communication capacities, then the objects can be tracked and monitored constantly. These objects can be related to logistics, diagnosis, therapy, recovery, medication, management, finance and even daily activity (Xu et al., 2014). In addition, sensors such as Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) can make IoT-based healthcare services mobile and personalized (Xu et al., 2014).

Patient safety is one of the main goals of healthcare institutions around the globe. Especially with the increasing number of population and patients worldwide, patient safety becomes a critical public health concern. However, there is a large number of medical errors that happen every year. It is estimated that there are about 42.7 million adverse events that happen each year out of 421 million hospitalizations (WHO, 2018). The World Health Organization (WHO, 2018) state that there is 1 out of 300 chances for a patient to be harmed when in healthcare due to medical errors. The majority of medical errors are attributed to specimen misidentification, adverse drug events and incorrect blood transfusions (Cornes, Ibarz, Ivanov, & Grankvist, 2019), which are all mainly caused by misidentification of patients and their related medications (Aguilar, Van Der Putten, & Kirrane, 2006; Mehrjerdi, 2015). However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have estimated that half of the medical errors caused by misidentification are preventable by introducing integrated Information Technology (IT) and Information Systems (IS) infrastructures in order to achieve patient safety goals (Brownie et al., 2018), as depicted in figure 1.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is believed to be the next-generation technology for tracking and data-collection and has successfully been applied in several industries such as manufacturing, retail and logistics. Over the past years, RFID has emerged as a powerful technology for data collection and automated tracking of the identity, location and movement of people, products, assets, and any other object of interest (Yao et al., 2012). However, RFID technology is not new. One of the predecessors of passive RFIDs is “The Thing”, a.k.a. “The Great Seal Bug” (ISECOM, 2008), which has been introduced in 1945 and was invented by Léon Theremin (Glinsky & Moog, 2000). The Thing was gifted as “a gesture of friendship in the form of a wooden carved great Seal of the United States given to the United States’ ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1945, which turned out to be a spying and listening device used by the Soviet intelligence KGB (Wikipedia Contributors, 2019).

On the other hand, the active RFID devices were introduced in 1973 by Mario W. Cardullo (Roberti, 2005). Thus, it took a substantial amount of time for organizations to realize the importance of the technology, and to commercialize the RFID technology in order to deliver value-adding applications related to intelligent management and tracking of objects in the areas of manufacturing, agriculture, supply chain, transportation and healthcare (Tzeng, Chen, & Pai, 2008).

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