Small FDA survey provides snapshot of RFID utilization

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Eight of nine hospitals surveyed by the FDA currently use RFID and RTLS—radio frequency identification and real-time locating systems—and most use the technologies facility-wide. A summary of the findings appears in MedSun's November newsletter.

The summary background said FDA is studying the nature of these systems and working with manufacturers to “learn how these systems co-exist in the hospital environment with a variety of medical devices and systems.” MedSun is the popular name for the FDA’s Medical Product Safety Network, which works with approximately 350 healthcare providers to improve the agency’s understanding and oversight of medical devices.

Among the small survey’s findings:

  • The respondents with RFID/RTLS systems purchased their equipment from multiple manufacturers.
  • Most reported having systems that are active-tag systems with some operating on the hospital’s 802.11 wireless system.
  • Infusion pumps, portable monitors, wheelchairs, beds and ventilators are among the most frequently tracked devices.
  • Almost all respondents reported collaboration with multiple hospital departments during the decision-making process to purchase, implement and support RFID/RTLS equipment. The most frequently involved departments include IT, clinical engineering, nursing, purchasing, materials management and finance.
  • Most respondents said IT usually takes the lead and is responsible for supporting the equipment.

“Overall, responses indicate many advantages to RFID or RTLS systems in hospitals such as improved inventory control, which may decrease the time staff need to look for equipment, improved cost containment and cost savings, and some report improved patient care,” the summary concluded. “Additionally, it is important to test RFID or RTLS systems for electromagnetic interference with devices in the individual hospital environment prior to purchase and implementation.”

Apart from identifying the respondents as MedSun hospitals, the summary does not describe the study group.