6 ways RFID can help during acute infection outbreaks in hospitals

infection control with RFID
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How can RFID technology help during infection outbreaks?

 
With global concerns growing over health issues and the spread of viruses such as COVID-19, radio frequency identification (RFID) has the potential to reduce the impact of such situations.
 
By using RFID technology, hospitals can track the location of vital assets such as beds, medical devices and sterile equipment, keeping an audit trail of their whereabouts and monitoring crucial cleaning and maintenance procedures. With nurses and doctors under enormous pressure during crisis situations like the coronavirus outbreak, this saves precious time when locating devices, whilst ensuring that equipment undergoes necessary cleaning procedures and keeping historic information which can help limit further spread of infectious diseases.
 

Here are 6 ways RFID can help

1. Reducing the spread

Using RFID technology can reduce the amount of contact you have with assets when identifying them. You don’t have to touch the items as the tags and the information stored within them can be picked up by a fixed or handheld reader. The tag doesn’t need to be in the line of sight of these readers to be picked up and therefore little to no physical touch is needed unlike barcodes that need to be visible to be scanned, thus reducing the risk of spreading an infection.

These items can include mattresses, operation equipment and medical devices that could all be contaminated. RFID ensures you don’t have to handle these items when locating and auditing and therefore reduces the risk of spreading infection around the site.

2. Identifying and controlling infection

During a pandemic, reacting quickly is key. RFID technology can help manage quick and effective responses to help control the spread of infectious diseases such as the identification of infected patients’ whereabouts and notifying affected parties.

Through patient tracking with RFID, infected patients can be monitored and located, whilst other patients and individuals that have been in contact with the infected patient can be traced back and tested. This controls the spread of infection as doctors can identify who has and could potentially have the virus and therefore be treated or kept separately from the general hospital.

This solution can also work for contaminated devices as they can be identified, and their movements traced backwards to contain the outbreak. This works in conjunction with better cleaning and sterilisation routines to ensure contaminated equipment surfaces don’t pose a threat to other patients.

3. Asset visibility and continuing day-to-day processes

With a constant influx of new patients coming into hospitals, making sure day-to-day routines and tasks, alongside infection control, can continue is important. Therefore, tracking sterile equipment for operations, hospital laundry and bed usage can ensure bottlenecks don’t arise and resources are fully utilised. This means that alongside battling the spread of infection, support is continuing for the rest of the hospital and time isn’t being wasted locating key assets.

4. Alerting and reporting

The application of this technology helps to provide additional quality control and security needed to reduce the risk of infection, thus improving quality of care and patient safety. The software also accumulates and reports important data which can be used to alert when standards are breached or if infection is spreading throughout the hospital.

5. Maintaining patient safety and quality of care

Hospitals can use RFID technology to reduce the impact and spread of infection by ensuring regular maintenance, cleaning and disposal of devices are carried out. By installing RFID readers around the hospitals and attaching tags to medical devices, each tagged item holds a unique device identifier (UDI) which allows users to track the device around the site and pinpoint its location.

Not only does this mean that devices can be found a lot quicker, saving precious time, but it also allows items to be monitored through the maintenance and sterilisation process, ensuring each item is safe to use and reducing the spread of infection.  Stricter sterilisation and cleaning procedures need to be adhered to during pandemics and therefore, if more frequent cleaning routines need to be implemented, compliance of these can be tracked and recorded for every item.

6. Inventory management

Visibility of stock is essential in hospitals, especially during pandemics, as critical supplies such as masks, gowns and gloves are constantly being used and disposed of. RFID technology can monitor stock levels in real time and therefore ensure hospital staff are aware of upcoming shortages or numbers in general. By providing this visibility, staff are able to distribute items to those worst affected and prioritise available supplies to areas where there is greater need.

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