UK hospitals embrace RFID

By the end of 2008, around 175 hospitals are expected to be utilising RFID tagging to keep track of patient and equipment whereabouts

Hospitals across England are keeping track of patients and equipment using RFID tagging.

More than 50 hospitals are using smart wireless or barcoded wristbands and tags to give them an instant snapshot of the location of medicines, patients and sterile equipment.

A total of 110 hospitals have signed up to deploy the Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) system.

About 175 hospitals are expected to have joined the scheme by the end of the year, ahead of the target set in the Department of Health Coding for Success report in February 2007.

Connecting for Health said the NHS was also looking at using RFID tags to track shipments in NHS logistics and to improve other services.

Neil Lawrence, project manager for AIDC, said: "The use of AIDC has been picked up very quickly and everyone from manufacturers to nurses have realised the benefits."

"The misidentification of people, supplies, medicine and medical devices is a very real issue for the health service and, by implementing barcoding and RFID tagging, we can eradicate several issues," said Lawrence.

The AIDC has been set up by CfH with standards organisation GS1 UK in conjunction with the National Patient Safety Agency and NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency.

A Dutch study recently found the electromagnetic interference generated by the track-and-trace RFID chips has the potential to disrupt medical devices.