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RFID: Beaming with Health

Feb 01, 20052 mins
Data and Information SecurityRFID

Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx uses RFIDs to track its patients

At the largest public hospital in the Bronx, more than 200 patients admitted last summer were tagged with radio frequency identification (RFID) chips on their wrists instead of the standard-issue plastic wristbands. The tagging was part of a pilot project at New York’s Jacobi Medical Center, using technology from Siemens Business Services, to streamline administrative tasks and improve the accuracy of handling patients’ treatment and records.

The hospital tried the technology in its surgical and oncology units, which are Wi-Fi enabled. The tags contain only the patient’s name, gender, date of birth and medical record number. Doctors and nurses use tablet PCs with an RFID reader that picks up the patient’s number at very close range andwhen provided with the proper access credentialslinks to a central clinical network where the patient’s medical record resides, along with information from labs, pharmacy and billing. There are plans to expand the pilot to two additional care units and then into a “general production” environment throughout the hospital in the spring.

A large number of Jacobi patients are admitted via the emergency room. Can inpatients choose whether they are tagged? No. “They have to be identified, right?” says Jerry Moy, senior client executive with Siemens Business Services. Apparently patients have not complained about the system. Indeed, the privacy of personal data and security of stored information is probably no worse than the old systemin which health-care providers had a cart full of three-ring binders, one for each patient.

And patients may feel some added security, knowing they are less likely now to undergo a bypass when they only came in for a biopsy.