RFID in E-Health: Technology, Implementation, and Security Issues

RFID in E-Health: Technology, Implementation, and Security Issues

Peter J. Hawrylak (The University of Tulsa, USA), Nakeisha Schimke (The University of Tulsa, USA), John Hale (The University of Tulsa, USA) and Mauricio Papa (The University of Tulsa, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0888-7.ch013


Electronic healthcare or E-Health promises to offer better care at lower cost. This is critical as the cost of healthcare continues to increase and as the population ages. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is one form of wireless technology that will be part of the E-Health environment. RFID provides the ability to identify, track, and monitor patients and staff members. This enables better resource allocation, reduction of medical errors, and increased independence for patients. One part of E-Health is the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). New developments in RFID technology now enable the storage of all or part of the EMR on an RFID tag that remains with the patient. This chapter investigates the use of RFID in E-Health, how RFID can be used to store the EMR, and the security and privacy risks associated with using RFID to store the EMR.
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RFID has been around for a long time, with initial applications being in the areas of automatic toll collection and airline baggage handling systems (Landt, 2001; Landt, 2005). Hawrylak, Mickle, and Cain present the background and history of the technological development of RFID (Hawrylak, Cain, & Mickle, 2008). RFID is composed of three components: RFID tags, RFID readers, and middleware/backend software. RFID tags are attached to an asset or person. The RFID tag identifies the asset or person and provides a medium to store additional data about the asset or person. This memory is commonly referred to as user memory. The RFID reader serves as the link between the middleware/backend software and the RFID tag. The RFID reader is responsible for communicating with the RFID tag and transferring information between the middleware/backend software and the RFID tag. The middleware/backend software represents two software components that are sometimes merged together. The middleware provides the glue logic, similar to a device driver, to connect the RFID reader to the backend system responsible for process control. Some advanced middleware platforms incorporate filtering and data processing capabilities to reduce the amount of data and requests sent to the backend software. The middleware connects to the backend software. In some RFID systems the middleware component is built into the RFID reader. The backend software provides the process control for the larger system. An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is one example of a backend system. Figure 1 illustrates the four major components in an RFID system.

Figure 1.

Overview of a typical RFID system


RFID enhances a traditional ERP system by providing better visibility and insight in the real-time operation of the system or process being managed. In the medical environment RFID can provide better inventory management, inventory locating capability, improve patient throughput, and improve patient safety.

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