A small, nine-hospital survey on radio frequency identification and real-time location services usage, conducted by the FDA, found that almost all of the institutions polled use the technologies to track patients and medical devices.
The federal watchdog agency found that eight of the nine facilities, all part of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health MedSun network, use RFID or RTLS technologies. The most popular uses were for tracking infusion pumps, portable monitors, wheelchairs, beds and ventilators.
The goal of the FDA survey was to learn how RFID and RTLS tracking systems are utilized in medical devices and to assess the future of the technology on anti-theft measures and patient tracking.
According to the survey, the facilities utilized RFID systems most frequently in expensive equipment that moves around the hospital, like infusion pumps, patient monitors, and defibrillators.
Most also plan to deploy other RFID-based inventory control systems to scan supplies, track emergency department records; several plan to install refrigerator temperature trackers that issue alerts when temperatures fall out of designated ranges.
Asked about the use of "people finder" systems, several MedSun facilities said they’re looking into ways to track both patients and employees.
"Some reasons include tracking patients who may be confused or have a brain injury and also for tracking patients in the Emergency Department to avoid delays with x-rays and lab testing," according to the report.
Two facilities are using tracking technology to protect infants from abduction. The RFID system sets off an alarm when an infant is taken outside a certain area.
Some of the MedSun facilities didn’t know if they were ready for the Big-Brotheresque tracking systems, saying they aren’t ready to begin "tagging patients" just yet.