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Location! Location! Location technologies are improving NHS care

London 1st May 2008: Some of the UK’s leading experts in location technologies confirmed this week that applications such as RFID in hospitals are already improving the efficiency and quality of patient care.

But they also warn that compatibility problems between hardware and software applications, and a lack of joined up thinking from technology companies mean that the NHS is not benefiting as much as it could.

Speakers from the UK government’s Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network, the Mobile Data Association and the Royal National Institute of Blind People gathered to discuss the role these technologies play in healthcare and assisted living.

Some successful examples given were:

RFID tags worn by hospital patients that store their picture and medical records so doctors, nurses and surgeons can retrieve the correct data before administering treatment or medication. Examples include the Safe Surgery System currently in use at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

Asset tracking – For the location of valuable items such as crash trolleys, infusion pumps, beds and wheelchairs. Applications are in the pilot stage in a number of hospitals where active Wi-Fi tags are attached to equipment. Return on investment is based on reducing inventory and time spent locating equipment. Examples of this technology of companies using this technology include Airetrack and Pango.

Security for babies in maternity units – prevention of abduction. Tamper proof active UHF tags are attached to new born babies linked to UHF antennae and door security systems to prevent unauthorised movement of children. Examples include X-Tag and ELPAS.

Security of patients with dementia. Active UHF tags worn by patients where location can be determined by RSSI to strategically placed UHF antennae. Staff can be alerted if patients move away from their ‘zone’. Examples include X-tag and Radianse.

Drug companies are already tagging pharmaceuticals so that they can monitor where drugs are lost and stolen. Astra Zeneca has already tagged more than 50 million syringes to ensure that patients are given the right dose of products.

Bob Cockshott of the Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network believes that use of these technologies is already having an impact on our healthcare.

“RFID and other location based technologies are already saving vital working hours, reducing mistakes and cutting waste in the system. To really push forward to the next level we need more joined up thinking between manufacturers and better systems integration to really reap the rewards on a grand scale,” he said.

Nick Hunn, Executive Director of the Mobile Data Association and Chief Technology Officer at Ezurio added “Whilst you may not always realise it immediately as a patient, these type of applications are beginning to have a real impact on the running of the NHS. But we could do so much more. We have to get technology companies, healthcare companies and hospitals to talk to each other and work out the best ways to draw maximum benefit from these emerging technologies. Such innovation may also come from outside the traditional healthcare sector.”

Jim Sutton | EurekAlert!
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