Storage Devices and RFID Applications in Healthcare

Advantages Of RFID

1)     Keeping track of medicine/patients
It is mandatory to sterilize medical equipments before reusing them. Infections and contagious diseases spread due to unclean instruments. Therefore, RFID readers can be set up at the entrance of storing chambers so that they give information about the status (cleaned/sterilized/unsterilized) of such devices. This helps eliminate disastrous errors that may occur on using unclean instruments. 

Data management about the patient's health can be maintained on a database and that too, automated directly by the RFID tags. RFID tags can also convey information about the health status of the patients by monitoring and recording blood pressures and heart beat rates. This can facilitate faster recovery of the patient and also help the nurses/caretakers to have a better check on the patient's health.

2)     Inventory efficiency 
Because line-of-sight is not required to read RFID tags, inventory can be performed in a highly efficient method. Unlike a bar code, an RFID tag can be read through other materials. This greatly reduces the manpower needed to search for a particular drug or medicine. For example, RFID tags are put on medicines, which give them a unique code and identity. It can then be read, inventoried, and their location can be determined no matter where the tag is placed on the medicine. This is because the radio waves from the reader are strong enough for the tag to respond regardless of location.

3)     Able to hold more data than barcodes
RFID tags can store data up to 8 KB whereas the bar code has the ability to read just 32 digits. However, as the data storage capacity of RFID tags increase, so does the cost of the tags.

4)    Security
Each year, the World Health Organization reports indicate an increase in the illicit trade of medicines. Pharmaceutical companies lose billions of dollars every year due to illicit trade and many people lose their lives on account of wrong medication. These threats can be averted by using RFID technology. RFID tags are placed on medicines, giving them a unique code and identity. In case of illegal distribution, the fake medicines can be easily distinguished. Expired medicines can also be kept under check by using RFID tags.


Disadvantages Of RFID

1)     High cost
You can produce a bar code on an item for less than 1 cent, but we are still “hoping” for 5 or 10-cent RFID tags sometime in the future (this may be years away). And even if we get 5-cent tags, that is still a significant cost to add to the manufactured cost of low-cost consumer goods. And even with higher-cost products, or case and pallet level tracking, the benefits of RFID must be greater than this additional cost. 

2)     Some materials may create signal problem
Metals and liquids can cause problems when trying to read RFID tags. Tag placement is becoming a science in and of itself since, depending on the product, even a case-level RFID tag may have to be placed in a specific location on the case and cases stacked in a specific orientation to get a consistent read.

3)     Interference
Interference has been observed if devices such as forklifts and walkie-talkies are in the vicinity of the distribution centres. The presence of mobile phone towers has been found to interfere with RFID radio waves. 

4)     May read more than one RFID tag
Though RFID does not require of line-of-sight, it is also not restricted by it. With proper bar code equipment, one can selectively read a single bar coded case on a shelf more than ten feet away. However, one can’t do that with RFID since an RFID reader will read all tags within its range. Even though you can get directional RFID readers, they are still not as selective as a visual device (bar code scanner).


Comparison between RFID and Barcodes

Click here to return to the top of the page.