RFID Use Growing in the Healthcare Industry

RFID use in the healthcare and pharmaceutical markets is a growing trend.  According to a recent issue of RFIDNews, the global market for RFID in these markets will reach $1.7 billion by 2018. New RFID functionality and the increase in counterfeiting and relabeling of expired drugs are among the factors driving this growth. Another factor influencing RFID use in healthcare is a recent study that finds RFID technology is safe when used with biologics (medical products made from living organisms or produced from substances generated by living things.) The study, published in the July-August edition of the PDA Journal of Pharmaceutical Science and Technology, says that research of more than 100 biopharmaceutical products from eight major drug companies demonstrated no non-thermal effect by radio frequency radiation.

That’s good news for drug makers because requirements mandated by the ePedigree laws in California and Florida are expected to take effect in 2015. To comply, drug makers will need a combination of RFID and 2D barcode technologies to monitor the condition, authenticity and traceability of pharmaceuticals, including biologics. Tagging drugs at item-level will help to combat drug counterfeiting and will enable pharmaceutical companies to locate a particular drug in case of a recall.

A recent Labeling News article, Barcodes and RFID for Blood Supply Protection?, points to a study at the BloodCenter of Wisconsin, where they are conducting a pilot study to see the effectiveness of using RFID for identification and tracking of blood transfusions. As expected, the study is showing that RFID is effective for saving time and for preventing mistakes. They are now awaiting FDA approval so that RFID tracking can be used in any blood bank within the US.

In healthcare settings, RFID is being used for real time locating systems (RTLS), which locates equipment, patients,  and staff to enhance the efficiency of healthcare delivery. And now at the University of Maryland Medical Center, RFID is being used in emergency rooms. Crash carts now contain drugs labeled with RFID tags to track all emergency medications. RFID helps the medical center be sure that the medications are where they are supposed to be and that they haven’t expired. Not only is RFID saving emergency staff and pharmacists time, but the tagging helps them identify which drugs are in short supply or to quickly find a substitute drug, if available.

-Labeling News