RFID use is expanding in healthcare. How do you see it improving patient safety and clinician efficiency?
RFID is a “data capture” device that enables far more than just unique identification and reading location. It also allows essential healthcare condition sensing information such as temperature exposure over time for pharmaceuticals, tamper evidence, or damaging impact or tilt information of critical medical equipment. RFID adoption opens up a world of innovation where companies can develop low-cost, battery-free methods to detect essential condition changes. In addition, RFID enables this information to be readily and efficiently gathered, aggregated, and shared across supply chains and among healthcare staff. This information eliminates the potential for human error (i.e., administering a vaccine that is potentially ineffective due to temperature exposure) or prevents timely downtime of medical equipment (i.e., knowing that a critical piece of medical equipment has experienced a potentially damaging impact BEFORE it is needed in an emergency).
What are the current challenges in adopting RFID in healthcare?
Infrastructure. Right now, there is RAIN UHF RFID, which requires one type of reader, and NFC, which is readable by any modern mobile device. The solution to this problem is either RAIN UHF + a QR code (also readable by most modern mobile devices), a combination of RAIN UHF RFID + NFC RFID chips, or mobile phones that can read RAIN UHF RFID. These innovations/evolutions will likely happen in that order.
Where do you see the future of RFID in healthcare?
RFID in healthcare will grow rapidly, primarily driven by regulations such as the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). There are over 40 countries with similar track and trace legislation for pharmaceuticals, covering over 75% of all pharmaceuticals shipped. At first, most pharmaceutical supply chain participants will focus on compliance. This will likely mean adopting QR Codes to comply with requirements to provide standardized information to an interoperable database that participants or regulators can access in the pharmaceutical supply chain.
However, firms will quickly realize QR Codes’ scanning inefficiency and security limitations. It won’t take long for the market to seek productivity and efficiency via RFID, especially since most large pharmaceutical distributors and dispensers already have RAIN UHF reading capability. In addition, the added value of RFID to sense conditions, such as temperature, helps supply chain participants comply with cold chain (CFR 21) and track and trace (i.e., DSCSA) regulations all in one, low-cost tag. This data will be very powerful in reducing the 20-30% of pharmaceuticals wasted in the supply chain due to temperature excursions.
Fresenius Kabi recognizes the importance of continually innovating the pharmaceutical industry with auto-identification technologies to support accurate, efficient data collection and safer patient care. We value the opinions of industry leaders in this field working to achieve this common goal.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the company they represent or Fresenius Kabi USA, LLC.