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Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto Relies on RFID in the Operating Room

While in hospital, non-mobile in-patients spend most of their time in their rooms. An assignment to their patient files is easy, as long as they stay where they are. Outpatients receiving chemotherapy in an oncology centre, or patients needing surgery, for example, need to be clearly identified. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre based in Toronto, Canada, uses RFID technology to safely identify patients, avoid confusion and optimise management processes.

Patient tracking during surgery

In 2015, system integrator RFID Canada installed long-range UHF readers from Feig Electronic in the adjacent areas and transitions of 19 operating rooms. The aim was to track the approximately 13,500 annual surgical patients on their way to surgical preparation, to the operating theatre, to the recovery room and subsequently back to the ward. “There used to be handwritten documentation on patient whereabouts during operating processes, which were not available in real time. This delay was fine because nursing staff primarily take care of patients. Nevertheless, there were process challenges, and patients had to wait longer than necessary in one of the surgical areas”, explained Ellie Lee, Manager OR Information Management Services, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre about the reasons for the RFID deployment.

“RFID makes it possible to locate patients in the operating room in real time – so numerous improvements in patient care are feasible. In addition, family members are quickly informed on the status of the operation without involving additional human resources.”

The trick with the file

Instead of providing the patient with an RFID wristband, there are two transponders on the patients file cover. “On the one hand, there is the risk that the patient’s arm is under the patient’s body. In that case, transponder detection is barely possible. On the other hand, in hospital, patient records are always transported with the patient”, said Ellie Lee, going on to explain: “We use two transponders on the patient file in horizontal and vertical alignment. In this way, we ensure the best possible registration. It was important that the transponder looks official – with a logo and a serial number printed on it. During our initial tests with blank transponders, staff were confused. They thought the transponders were tape and removed them.”

Emergency patients coming into the operating room without medical records will have a Plexiglas plate put on the bed’s clipboard, where two transponders are attached. After leaving the surgical area, the file covers are thrown into special containers so that they can be reprocessed (cleaned) and reused. “If a patient is noted as ‘dismissed’ in the system and the file cover was forgotten and not taken off the bed, the exit antennas will signal an alarm. Practically no items get lost.”

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