Waiting in the reception room of a medical clinic can feel like one of the most wasted periods of the day. But now, the wait promises to shorten using passive UHF RFID, voice capture, and biometrics.
The envisioned scenario for patients at clinic and hospital admissions is to issue outpatients passive RFID-tagged wristbands (cards or badges).
Without human intervention, these tags can be scanned by ceiling or gate readers as patients enter the consultation/treatment area of a medical facility. If the patient arrives in an unusual position, the scan can be made without disturbing the patient because line-of-sight is not necessary.
Therefore, RFID in hospitals and clinics can provide fast identification under almost any condition.
Along with identification, some systems also will assign to patients appropriate examination rooms according to previous needs (heart testing equipment, ergonomics, etc.), practitioner assignments, and openings.
Since patients often go from place to place in an integrated medical facility, RFID tags will enable staff to know where each person is in real-time so all parties stay on schedule and patients receive attention when needed.
Medical RFID provides quick access to patient records
A unique patient RFID code gives medical practitioners access to the patient’s unique EMR, electronic medical record.
Upon access to these computer EMR files, a patient’s health history is opened to health practitioners and, in collaboration with additional technological advances, is amended in real time as the patient proceeds through consultations, diagnoses and procedures. (Even now, through barcoding, automation has largely eliminated the sometimes massive manila patient folders crammed with medical reports that nurses carried from practitioner to practitioner in the past. Did you notice their disappearance?)
It also portends elimination of the irritating repetitive forms patients are asked to fill out at every treatment desk. (What health conditions do you have? List the medications you are taking. Etc.) The reiteration is so frustrating, especially when ill.
Of course, such repetitive questions such as “who are you” and “what is your date of birth,” are intended to secure a patient’s identity. However, such a method of identification in our global society is hardly foolproof. Myriad numbers of people share the same name, birth date and birth place.
Very accurate identification is important, according to Raymond D. Aller, M.D., presenter at the HIMSS 16 conference, for two main reasons.
First, some people want to take on the identity of another person for fraudulent purposes. Second, in society few people have truly unique names, dates of birth and other criteria.
Aller’s presentation claimed “Duplicate records account for 5-15% of all patient records and cost the average hospital $500k to $2.5m every few years. . . Medicare and Medicaid identity errors and fraud cost tends of billions annually.” Age, nationality, and merging of computer records within and between systems can also lead to misidentification.
Financial costs, however, are a minor matter. Proper patient care is the main concern when the decision is made to employ an RFID system because such systems help to ensure proper medication dosages, accurate lab work, accurate diagnoses, and correct medical matches.
In consequence, before RFID tags are issued, precise identification must be made and electronically associated with the RFID tag.
Biometrics, RFID verify your identity
Therefore, prior to the UHF RFID tagging, another technology will come into play: biometrics. Kiosks accepting fingerprints, iris scans and palm vein sensors will be used to verify that each patient is the patient he/she claims to be and for whom UHF RFID tag file access is to be given. (First-time patients would have to be entered into the system’s database, but thereafter, identification should be immediate and accurate, perhaps even given to the patient and carried as other modes of identification, driver's licenses, for instance.)
RFID, voice capture records details of visit
Subsequently, on admission, the patient will often be face to face with a practitioner and the EHR open on the practitioner's computer.
The RFID tag time stamps the file opening. At this point, to document the consultation, another technology comes into play: a very sophisticated voice capture software program.
Lending accuracy and a time-saving element to the visit, the program benefits both the patient and the practitioner. Voice capturing software enables the practitioner to effectively interact with the patient and to be updating the consultation and treatment to the EHR simultaneously.
Using key words and phrases, almost as checklists, common place conditions are recorded; nuanced conditions are recorded, and diagnosis and treatment is assigned to the record as text in real time.
With discrete computer sorting, practitioners also will be able to reference similar case histories documented in the system to assist in difficult diagnoses and implement care. Should questions arise about treatment, this documentation and the visit itself will be useful during patient discussions and possible litigation generated by either practitioner or patient.
Because of UHF RFID access, the visit is time stamped on the opening and closing of the EHR. The consultation during that time period is available. Other visits with labs, therapists and others subsequent to a consultation are also documented by timestamp and substance to be available for review.
RFID gives provider virtual access to your records
Finally, further Web based and cloud technology will play their part in individual health care. Using secure cloud infrastructure in ever developing forms, a patient’s EHR will be accessed anytime and anywhere through the use of the internationally recognized passive UHF RFID system and EPC Gen2 tags.
Because of this access, practitioners will have access to a patient’s EHR with the use of a smartphone and a reader or other means enabling a complete vision of the patient’s past health.
Much more could be said about the benefits of the medical use of RFID tags currently and in the future. Rapidly, RFID in medicine will collaborate with other technologies such as biometrics and voice capture software, to bring about better health.
Luckily, future care will be immediate, secure, accurate, up-to-date and well-matched for optimum health. Collaborative technologies will ease the burdens of the past. The waiting room will hardly exist. Hopefully, the friendly “hello” will still be there.