||Navy Puts RFID Into Service
Navy Puts RFID Into Service
Tue Jun 10, 3:34 AM ET Add Technology - TechWeb to My Yahoo!
While retailers and distributors mull the use of radio-frequency
identification chips to track products in their stores and supply
chains, the U.S. Navy (news - web sites) is already using them to
track something far more precious: human lives.
Each patient admitted into the Navy's Fleet Hospital Three in Iraq
(news - web sites) is tagged with an RFID-enabled wristband. The
patients, who can range from U.S. military personnel to prisoners
of war to refugees, are given unique ID numbers for the duration
of their treatment. Doctors and nurses use a handheld RFID reader
to scan the bracelet to confirm identity and enter information on
diagnoses, treatments, and status into a central data system.
TacMedCS replaces labor-intensive pen-and-paper data entry, which
relied on white boards and cardboard tags to track patients. "Today
on the battlefield, information is being collected using Civil War
technology, pencil and paper," says Brian Jones, VP of ScenPro
Inc., which designed the software that runs the system. TacMedCS
also includes RFID tags from Texas Instruments, "smart bands"
from Precision Dynamics, and handheld RFID readers from A.C.C. Systems.
As a result of the implementation in Fleet Hospital Three, the Navy
has been able to keep important information with patients, track
their location automatically, and keep closer track of their treatment,
all of which has allowed it to improve the quality of medical care.
The Navy tags patients at an Iraq military hospital with RFID-enabled
bracelets to confirm identities and track diagnoses and treatment
plans in a central database.
Medics use the tags on the battlefield to identify the wounded before
they're sent to the hospital. Doctors behind the lines are then
able to access the TacMedCS database and plan in advance what treatment
and surgery they'll need to perform when patients arrive. "It
helps the commanders understand how many casualties are in the field,"
says Bob Williams, senior knowledge analyst for ScenPro. "Then
they can get that info back to the people who need it."
In addition, since better medical records are being kept, doctors
in the United States are able to examine the data carefully to determine
if soldiers are suffering common injuries, then try to find ways
to prevent that. It also provides a way for researchers to link
up to larger health databases and try to understand medical phenomena
such as the Gulf War syndrome (news - web sites).
Similar RFID systems also are being used in U.S. civilian hospitals
to track patients who require constant monitoring, such as newborn
babies, says Frost & Sullivan analyst Deepak Shetty. There's
been hesitation to deploy them widely because of fears over the
reliability of the hardware and potential radio interference with
other devices, he says. But the success of systems such as TacMedCS
is likely to change that, and RFID should soon become commonplace
in medical applications.
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