Effective Use of RFID in Medicine and General Healthcare

Effective Use of RFID in Medicine and General Healthcare

Eisuke Hanada (Shimane University Hospital, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4062-7.ch018
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RFID have been used for decades. There are a variety of systems and several standards for RFID tags. RFID systems have long been utilized in industry, but their use in hospitals is not widespread. RFID tag systems with specific applications to hospital needs have the potential for great benefit, both clinically and economically. In the first part of this chapter, typical uses of RFID in hospitals are shown, after which practical RFID systems are introduced, including the use of newly developed active RFID tags. Finally, possible future medical uses of RFID tags and tag systems are discussed.
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The utility of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) systems is well documented, and a variety of types of tags and their related technologies have been developed. Although RFID tags have long been widely used for commercial and industrial purposes, only fairly recently have they been adopted for medical purposes in the clinical and healthcare field. The installation of RFID tag systems in hospitals has the potential for great benefit, both clinically and economically. Herein, the strengths and weaknesses of RFID are defined and how they can contribute to “safety first” is shown. Examples will then be given of the application of RFID tags to hospital needs and information necessary for the successful implementation of an RFID system is presented. Finally, how RFID tags and tag systems might be used in the future is discussed.


RFID tags have been put to practical use for several decades. Spekman and Sweeney did an excellent review of the implementation of RFID in 2006. The main target of this review was the logistics of distribution systems. In recent years, experimental systems using RFID tags have been tested in hospitals. For medical and healthcare purposes, the systems have been mainly used for inventory control or for searching for the location of a person or material to which an RFID tag is attached. Yao et al., Wamba, and Chien et al. have done reviews of hospital applications of RFID in which they focused mainly on systems used for inventory control and for locating personnel or materials to which a passive RFID tag was attached. Many other reports of systems in which RFID tags are attached to medical devices or to staff members have been published, for example by Fry in 2005, Kannry in 2007, Macario in 2006, Meyer in 2006, Ohashi in 2008, and Reicher in 2007.

An example of RFID use is shown in Figure 1. It looks like a standard wristband used to identify a patient. On the surface, the barcode of the ID and the sex and name of the patient are printed, as on the usual patient wristband. However, a waterproof RFID tag sealed in vinyl is embedded on the reverse side, which enables the staff to obtain patient data without physical contact or to locate a patient from a remote location.

Figure 1.

An RFID tag equipped wristband for patient identification; a) Bar code printed on the wristband, b) Wristband, c) A waterproofed RFID tag


This type of wristband has been used in Akita University Hospital, Japan for several years. At this hospital, RFID tags are also attached to blood bags to confirm that the bag is used only for the patient with the corresponding tag. RFID use in hospitals and in general healthcare has made great progress over the past few years.

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