Healthcare Has First Standards for Use of Bar Codes and RFID

ANSI and two healthcare groups collaborate to develop standards to support these technologies

THREE ORGANIZATIONS have jointly developed information technology standards to be used in identifying patients, drugs, and medical devices. These standards use bar code, radio frequency identification (RFID), and two-dimensional symbol technologies.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recently approved the first part of this new data standard, which is called “Positive Identification for Patient Safety, Part I, Medication Delivery Standard.” ANSI worked with the Health Industry Business Communications Council, in Phoenix, Arizona, and Partners HealthCare System, in Boston, Massachusetts, to jointly develop the standard.

Focus on Patient Safety

In the 239-page document that describes the standard, the developers said, “The scope of this standard is to define the data formats for the data carriers (bar codes, 2-D symbols or RFID tags) which are used to automatically capture information to positively identify objects in the process around medication administration and management. The objects include employee badges, patient wristbands, non-IV medications, IV-medications, smart infusion pumps, and device license plate labeling for intelligent devices.”

The proposed system and resulting specification requires the use of barcodes, 2-D symbols, or RFID tags to automatically capture data, thereby reducing transcription or data entry errors and improving patient safety. Without a standard, vendors use different protocols, inhibiting the ability of technologies to communicate with each other.

The U.S. healthcare market for RFID products and systems last year totaled almost $300 million and explosive growth is predicted for this technology over the next five years. In its report “RFID Opportunities in Healthcare in the U.S.,” issued last year, market research firm Kalorama Information, in Rockville, Maryland, estimates that the healthcare RFID market will reach $1 billion by 2010 and $3.1 billion by 2012.

Kalorama declared that “RFID technologies are dramatically changing many industries, but… the greatest market for RFID is in healthcare. Hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes, and other healthcare entities will benefit from using the technologies to keep track of inventories and patients. Growth in RFID in healthcare will occur as issues of net- work infrastructure, interoperability, and the costs of implementation are resolved.”

THE DARK REPORT predicts that RFID will find multiple applications in laboratory medicine, once the price point of RFID chips falls to a more economical level.The Mayo Clinic already uses RFID to tag specimens moving between its gastroenterology surgery suites and the histopathology laboratory. (See TDR, January 29, 2007.)


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