RFID for End users

June 26, 2020

Why touchless technologies add a touch of strength to healthcare

COVID-19 is highlighting the importance of a reliable and high-performing healthcare system. While a multitude of factors determines the performance of that system, RFID-based touchless technologies can provide an ever-increasing contribution, says Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager, Avery Dennison Intelligent Labels. And as he explains using current examples, that contribution is firmly related to keeping supply chains healthy, but goes far beyond.

By Francisco Melo, vice president and general manager, Avery Dennison Intelligent Labels 

Doctors and nurses are of course at the very heart of the healthcare system, and they rely on the ‘system’ to provide them with the equipment they need to fulfill their tasks. Be it instruments, pharmaceuticals or personal protective equipment (PPE) – having sufficient, reliable and safe supplies is truly vital at any time, and even more so in times of COVID-19. All these supplies rely on reliable and safe supply chains which have always been a key application area for RFID-based touchless technologies. RFID enables visibility of every tagged item in the supply chain, virtually anytime and anywhere, leading to previously unheard-of levels of inventory transparency and accuracy – the basis for informed decisions on how and when to redirect inventory to areas that have limited stock, or where there is high demand.

Supply chain optimization Is no miracle
These benefits of course not only apply to retail or industrial supply chains, but – to an even higher degree – to the healthcare sector as well. The healthcare sector requires absolute visibility of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, instruments, blood bags and samples of all kinds in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries and laboratories. RFID solutions can provide that visibility, as well as effectively supporting otherwise labor-intensive and error-prone restocking processes for medication trays and carts. In the era of COVID-19, when healthcare products need to be distributed globally, supply chain optimization becomes nothing less than mandatory for the healthcare sector and related industries.

Integrating RFID into pharmaceutical products helps improve patient safety by enabling more accurate tracking and authentication of medication through the entire supply chain, with the goal of reducing error rates to nearly zero.

Medical products need authentication
Another benefit of touchless technologies is product authentication, the process of making sure, that products are genuine and have the characteristics warranted by the manufacturer: With RFID-enabled products such as PPE, it becomes possible to not only know that they are authentic and approved products, they can also aid safety, for example, RFID overhead readers could be used to trigger an alert if an individual enters an area without the correct protective gear. In addition, healthcare workers wearing an RFID identifier can be monitored to ensure that safety protocols are met, with the correct hygiene processes in place. 

Numerous solutions highlight the benefits of touchless technology
Just recently, Smartrac, an Avery Dennison company, and blockchain startup SUKU, announced a digital verification solution to authenticate COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). The test kit solution allows organizations to access real-time data from test kit results to make informed decisions on the allocation of doctors, facilities and resources. By opening a communication channel with healthcare officials, the solution will also provide patients with guidance on appropriate behavior in case of a positive test result. 

A promising therapy: Exploring new technologies
These smart solutions are only a starting point, however. The healthcare industry involves many processes that need identification, monitoring, authenticating and documenting – strongholds of touchless technologies. RFID can help to automatically identify patients and personnel, medical devices, blood bags, test kits and samples but also track pharmaceuticals. In any application, it helps to prevent human errors and medical malpractice, resulting in higher employee and patient satisfaction and most importantly, improved patient safety. A little more than one year ago, Kit Check, the leader in automated medication management solutions for hospitals, and Avery Dennison jointly developed a solution that highlights the benefits of RFID in the healthcare segment.  

Integrating RFID into pharmaceutical products helps improve patient safety by enabling more accurate tracking and authentication of medication through the entire supply chain, with the goal of reducing error rates to nearly zero. It also eliminates the need for cost and, most important in today’s situation, labor-intensive in-house medication tagging, hence taking a considerable burden from the shoulders of hospital staff. 

Examples that prove the point
No matter if you look at test kit authentication or pharmaceutical product tagging, there are plenty of examples that clearly prove one point: We believe the healthcare sector is well-positioned to follow in the successful footsteps of the retail and logistics industries. And that is to explore new technologies and solutions for supply chain optimization and product authentication.

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