Apr 03 2023
Digital Workspace

How RFID in Healthcare Transforms Point of Care

Connected devices from tablets to radio-frequency identification tags are helping healthcare providers meet patient expectations for faster care in an age of growing IT complexity.

Healthcare providers are grappling with significant workforce and labor challenges while simultaneously facing changing point-of-care needs, as patients increasingly expect treatment to be delivered quickly and efficiently.

The ability to exchange data in a timely manner and ensure all assets are functioning properly are essential components for ensuring timely, effective delivery of patient care.

Meanwhile, the sheer volume of medical devices continues to grow, while telehealth services and a push for care beyond healthcare facilities create additional demands within IT.

Connected technologies ranging from radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to mobile devices including tablets are helping care providers address rising patient demands for the point of care, wherever that may be.

“The number of assets that IT organizations are managing is increasing rapidly with the push toward automation, whether that’s to ease the labor burden, increase the speed at which patient care can be delivered, or to be able to see more patients and provide access to more patients,” says Rikki Jennings, chief nursing informatics officer for Zebra Technologies.

DISCOVER: How Zebra can empower frontline workers with mobile devices.

RFID Tags Track Patients and Devices

Jennings says that RFID tags give care providers real-time visibility into assets and people, which she says is fundamental to the evolution of healthcare in an age of increasing automation.

“You can’t automate unless you know where things are,” she says. “Being able to connect clinicians to each other in real time and help them connect with critical assets without any extra labor is transformational.”

RFID tags can be printed on patient wristbands, which allow for easy scanning and tracking, or attached to the numerous medical devices found within the facility, she adds.

“With RFID, you’re able to look at equipment and know in that minute how many devices you have, where they are located, and then recognize if you need to shift them because of patient demands — and avoid situations where you’re overspending on rental costs,” Jennings says.

She notes that RFID wristbands have a twofold use in direct patient identification as well as patient tracking, which helps clinicians better understand where a patient has been and where he or she currently is.

“We can get a clinician to a patient more quickly because we can see where they are in real time,” Jennings says.

LEARN MORE: Find out how to sharpen clinical communication strategies for better care.

Mobile Devices Free Clinicians to Focus on Patient Care

Handheld mobility is essential for the day-to-day care clinicians provide to patients. Devices include smartphone-sized mobile computing devices, such as Zebra’s TC21-HC and TC26-HC, and larger, ruggedized devices, such as Zebra’s ET4x-HC tablets.

“All of this clinical data is not beneficial unless you can see in real time where you need to be,” Jennings explains. “If you’re standing in front of a desktop, updating a browser, it’s not conducive to real-time work and spending more time with the patient.”

Rikki Jennings
With a mobile device in the hands of every clinician, they can manage workflows while talking to providers, getting calls directly from the lab or to assigned bedside personnel.”

Rikki Jennings Chief Nursing Informatics Officer, Zebra Technologies

She recalls the days when clinicians would sit at desktops waiting for lab orders to update, hitting refresh, waiting to see results.

“With a mobile device in the hands of every clinician, they can manage workflows while talking to providers, getting calls directly from the lab or to assigned bedside personnel,” she says. “You can reduce delays on updating lab results, and you have direct communication through the handheld.”

She notes that mobile devices allow clinicians to make full use of RFID technology to track patients, do documentation, and pair with tagged equipment to connect patients and staff with the care they need, when and where they need it.

EXPLORE: Best practices for clinical communication and collaboration device management.

Tablets and Telehealth Boost Clinical Efficiencies

Jennings says tablets have proven indispensable during the rise of telehealth and the expansion of the point of care beyond the four walls of the hospital.

“They give clinicians the ability to see more data and to take on more workflows,” she says. “We’re seeing tablets put into the hands of additional care team members and support personnel who can do documentation directly with a patient wherever they’re engaging them in the hospital or seeing them, in a physician’s office or at home.”

Additional features in Zebra’s healthcare tablets include a programable button for emergency situations, wireless connectivity or 5G cellular capability and a ruggedized design that can withstand hospital-grade disinfectants. All of these help caregivers improve the point of care for patients.

Jennings adds that mobile devices can also optimize medication requests and communication between the patient and caregiver, as well as enabling the essential documentation needed when that medication is administered.

“They help clinicians complete these tasks without ever relying on a desktop computer or stopping anything they’re doing,” she says. “Clinical mobility is really an essential part in medication administration, engagement with the patient and timely delivery of care.”

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