1. Technical Review Dev Shah – ECE 4007 – L03
RFID IN HEALTHCARE
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a system that assists in tracking and
identifying objects, as a result of transferring data by means of radio waves. In recent
years, intensive research in the commercial uses of RFID has led to major advances in the
healthcare industry. RFID tracking and identification systems are being implemented in
the healthcare industry for tasks ranging from inventory management to patient care.
This paper focuses on the commercial applications of active RFID systems in hospitals
for patient care, specifically patient monitoring in hospitals. The paper will further detail
the underlying technology in RFID systems, and proper resources for implementation.
Commercial Applications of RFID in Healthcare
The global market for RFID is expected to be worth $7.5 billion in 2008 and
could rise to $24.5 billion in 2015. These values include the sales from tags, readers and
software services . The market for RFID tags and systems in healthcare and is
expected to grow to $2.1 billion by 2016 . The benefits of patient monitoring using
RFID, such as improving patient safety and the workflow of hospital staff, have led many
hospitals worldwide to integrate RFID solutions into their hospital system.
Massachusetts General Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School,
currently employs a current state of the art Radianse RFID system, Radianse Reveal, to
track patients and staff using an indoor positioning system and was documented to have
100% patient location accuracy in a peer-reviewed study . The Radianse Reveal
system uses a 433 MHz frequency dedicated to medical use; the 433MHz band has been
set aside by the FCC for interference free, reliable location. The system uses multiple
RFID receivers positioned around the hospital to read the RF signal transmitted from
Radianse tags to calculate a precise location. The Radianse Reveal system uses a non-
line-of-sight RF, preferable in a healthcare setting where tags are often covered.
Radianse offers both disposable and extended-use low cost tags, at less than one dollar a
DAILY RFID has recently developed a GEN 2 RFID wristband constructed from
100% pure non-allergenic silicone and is ISO 18000-6 compliant. The current state of
2. Technical Review Dev Shah – ECE 4007 – L03
the art GEN2 wristband addresses the need for an on the wrist RFID tag that has a
specific read range especially suited for patient care and tracking in healthcare
environments. The GEN 2 wristband was tested using a Sirit510 RFID reader and read
distances during testing ranged from a maximum range of 8.8 ft., a minimum range of 4.2
ft., and an average read distance of 6.3 ft. .
Underlying Technology behind RFID in Healthcare
The three main components of any RFID system are the tag (transponder), the
reader (interrogator), the reader antennae.
The RFID tag, also know as the transponder, holds the data that is transmitted to
the reader when the tag is interrogated by the reader. The basic tag has two main
components: a microchip and an antenna. The microchip stores patient data information.
The antenna inside of the tag is used for drawing energy from the RFID reader’s signal to
energize the tag and for sending and receiving data from the reader. There are three types
of tags: passive, active, and semi-active (also known as semi-passive). The passive RFID
tag does not have an on-board power source, and instead relies on the power emitted from
the RFID reader to power itself and transmit data. The active RFID tag uses an on-board
battery power source to transmit data. The semi-active RFID tag uses an on-board
battery power source to energize the tag; however, but still uses the reader’s emitted
power for data transfer. The semi-active tag can be read from a longer distance compared
to the passive tag .
The RFID reader, also called an interrogator, is a device that can read from and
write data to compatible RFID tags. The RFID reader is either physically or wirelessly
connected to a host computer loaded with the proper software to manage and manipulate
the data transmitted between tag and reader. One of the most important aspects of a tag
and reader connection is the frequency at which it operates . RFID systems
implemented in hospitals operate at an ultra high frequency (UHF) at a frequency range
from 300 MHz to 1 GHz. This high of a frequency is requires as not to interfere with or
be interfered by other hospital equipment .
A RFID reader antenna is a separate device that assists the reader in
communicating to the tag. The reader antenna connects to the reader by means of a cable
3. Technical Review Dev Shah – ECE 4007 – L03
into the reader’s antenna ports; a single reader can support up to four antennas. The
antenna broadcasts the reader transmitter’s RF signal and scans for tag responses. Thus,
proper positioning of the antenna is key for successful communication between tag and
Implementation of RFID in Healthcare
Radianse makes the industry's lowest cost, active-RFID patient tags that transmit
data at 433 MHZ to RFID receivers that in turn send data to the server via LAN or Wi-Fi.
The information can be viewed from the server using a web application. Information and
alerts can also be available via short messaging service to a cell phone or PDA .
A patient’s movement in the hospital can be tracked and logged into a computer
system using an active RFID detection method. RF antennas will be placed inside or
under the patient's mattress and will be used to automatically read RFID tags on the
patient's wrists and/or ankles. The RFID reader will be able to detect whether or not the
correct patient is lying on the bed. The reader antenna will periodically scan and identify
if the patient is still lying on the mattress. The computer will also monitor other antennas
placed around the bed. If the patient moves away from the antenna under the mattress
and within close proximity to another antenna, a pre-programmed alarm will alert
hospital staff. This RFID detection method can prevent falls or wandering .
4. Technical Review Dev Shah – ECE 4007 – L03
 B. Cook. (2005, Aug). Growth track: RFID seen hitting $7.5 billion by 2008.
Boston Business Journal [Online]. Available HTTP: http://www.bizjournals.com/
 A. Lewcock, “Healthcare RFID market forecast at $1.2B,” [Online Document],
2007 July 09, [cited 2008 Aug 30], Available HTTP:
 T. Fitzgerald. (2003, Oct). Cart 54, Where Are You? The Tracking System
Knows. New York Times [Online]. Available HTTP: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/
 Radianse Company Website, “Radianse Reveal – Key Features,” [Website], [cited
2008 Aug 31], Available HTTP: http://www.radianse.com/reveal-features.html.
 J. Pan, “UHF RFID Wristband,” [Online Document], 2008 August 14, [cited
2008 Aug 30], Available HTTP: http://www.pr-inside.com/uhf-rfid-wristband-
 S. Lahiri, RFID Sourcebook. Upper Saddle River, NJ: IBM Press, 2006.
 M. Bhuptani and S. Moradpour, “Components of RFID Systems,” in RFID Field
Guide. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Sun Microsystems, 2005.
 Using RFID to prevent or detect falls, wandering, and bed egress and medication
errors, by A. Koblasz. (2007, July 19). Wipo Patent WO/2007/081823 [Online].
Available HTTP: http://www.freepatentsonline.com/WO2007081823.html