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RFID in Healthcare Radicalizes Supply Chain: Why Your Pharmacy Can’t Afford To Be Left Behind

What is the best way to track your hospital’s drug supply chain from source to patient?

How can you get a better handle on your pharmacy’s inventory?

RFID technology is an incredibly valuable resource, and today we’ll dive into what RFID in healthcare looks like.

What is RFID?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) refers to a wireless system consisting of tags and readers. The reader is a device with one or more antennas, emitting radio waves and receiving signals from the RFID tag. Tags use radio waves to communicate their identity and other information to nearby readers and can be battery-powered.

RFID tags can store a significant amount of data, whether it be a single serial number or several pages of material. Mobile RFID readers and RFID-enabled scanners provide value in managing inventory control.

What’s the difference between RFID and Barcode?

While barcode scanners require you to scan each item individually, RFID scanners can scan multiple tags at once. 

Duplicate scanning is also a common issue with barcode scanners that does not occur with RFID technology.

Barcode tags may not properly function if they are bent, scratched, marked, or otherwise disfigured, while RFID tags are challenging to destroy. 

Because RFID tags are a more powerful technology, it may sound like they’re your best option — but there are certain cases where barcodes are preferable. Suppose you have one dose of Klonopin that a patient needs. Your pharmacist would receive the order from the prescribing physician, scan the badge of the nurse administering the medication, and then also scan the dispensed drug dosage. Conversely, if your pharmacist used an RFID scanner, it may identify multiple doses of various drugs in your pharmacy, resulting in problems for your inventory control.

What areas is RFID growing in retail?

Retail Info Systems reports that Zara-owner Inditex has worked to produce a “post-pandemic digital future” for the retail brand, adapting to an RFID-driven, digital-first model to accomplish the following:

  • improved garment tracking
  • integrated inventory management
  • track consumer demand with no time lags
  • manage stocks efficiently and remotely

Other retailers, including Levi’s, cited an increase in sales as well as “98% inventory accuracy in stores where RFID is fully operational.”

RFID is the future for retail. Will this translate to healthcare organizations?

The Opportunities for RFID in Healthcare

Researchers at the University of Arkansas cited various cases and opportunities for RFID in healthcare:

  • ClearCount Medical Solutions’ SmartSponge System that tracks surgical sponges to prevent foreign objects (sponges) from being left inside patients during surgery
  • Digital Angel and VeriChip proposed a potential solution to monitor glucose levels in diabetic people and animals
  • Eastman Kodak patented the use of printed RFID to monitor patients in hospitals and at home on pill consumption and absorption
  • Automated hand washing systems at Resurgent Health and Medical to prevent infections

Arkansas researchers identified RFID healthcare provider opportunities that would reduce asset shrinkage, ensure proper equipment servicing, manage inventory, track patient flow, and reduce medical errors, among other concerns.

Importance of Increasing Adoption in Healthcare

Healthcare systems will need to adapt to the marketplace the same way retail organizations have adapted in order to maintain compliance, reduce inventory shortages, and identify and prevent drug diversion.

At Kit Check, we recognize the greatest RFID opportunities lie in patient safety and drug inventory management.

How have we helped hospitals improve supply chain logistics and save money with RFID technology? Check out our recent white paper featuring Allegheny Health Network, detailing how barcode and RFID technology revolutionized their organization.

We’ve also partnered with numerous healthcare leaders to ensure fully compliant RFID tags and scanning stations


Still unsure if RFID technology is a worthwhile investment for your hospital?
Contact us to learn more and discuss how Kit Check can work for your company.