Radio Frequency Identification is a wireless non-contact use of radio-frequency electromagnetic fields that transfer data for the purposes of automatically identifying and tracking tags containing electronically stored information attached to objects. An RFID system has two basic components: a reader and one or more uniquely identifiable tags. The reader can wirelessly interact with the tags in different ways. Typically, the reader transmits a signal and listens for a tag-modified echo. The differences between the transmitted and received signal encode information from the tag. This technology offers real time visibility that barcode identification systems currently lack.
Presently, RFID uses in the healthcare and hospital setting are seen in patient monitoring, asset management, equipment tracking, EMR data collection, waste management and sample tracking*.
How does this technology impact our profession?
In the laboratory, inventory management software with RFID technology is just starting to be adopted. Several well known vendors are now marketing this technology to automate inventory monitoring, tracking, stocking and ordering processes. The system can track key laboratory supplies such as reagents, calibrators and controls. Another equally important application is the emerging use of RFID to tag and monitor patient specimens.
Why do we need to consider utilizing this new technology? There are several advantages of RFID over more traditional barcode labeling:
Comparison of RFID and Bar codes **
In fact, when working with samples stored in a freezer, an important longer-term advantage of RFID-tagged samples is that the scanner technology described above can, with careful design, be implemented in the freezer itself. This would allow the freezer to inventory itself and report its contents to the user without removing samples from the freezer. If this can be implemented, the security of a the laboratory specimens will increase because any changes to the contents would be traceable to whoever accessed the freezer***.
*M. Hernandez. Managing Laboratory Inventory: RFID. MD Buyline. Blogs Sept. 9, 2014. http://www.mdbuyline.com/blogs/
**RFID Labeling for Laboratories. CSols-AdminLeave a Comment. Dec 19, 2011. http://www.csols.com/wordpress/rfid-labelling-for-laboratories/
***H. Davidowitz. Use of RadioFrequency Identification (RFID) for Sample Tracking. July 31, 2012. http://www.americanlaboratory.com/913-Technical-Articles/118171-Use-of-Radio-Frequency-Identification-RFID-for-Sample-Tracking/