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D I G I TA L

H E A LT H

RFID in the Hospital

Calling all Patients

Tomorrow’s patients will wear wristbands outfitted with tiny radio labels, thus allowing clinics to organize processes more efficiently. Pilot projects in New York and Saarbrücken, Germany are demonstrating how the labels help prevent identification and treatment errors.

I n the future, patients at Saarbrücken Hospital in southwestern Germany will be issued wristbands that ensure reliable identi- fication. The goal is to make issuing of medications in hospitals more reliable than ever, while ensuring that patients won’t be confused with one another or receive incor- rect prescriptions. The thin wristbands contain a tiny radio label in which patient data is stored. The RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) labels consist of a data chip and an ultra-thin antenna coil (see p. 28).

The Right Dose. To retrieve data, a doctor or nurse simply holds a pocket or tablet com- puter equipped with an RFID reading unit near the patient’s wrist. The unit sends a radio signal to the wristband, calling up the stored information and ensuring reliable identifica- tion of the patient in question. At the same time, the pocket PC uses a WLAN radio link to access complete patient data from the hospi- tal’s central computer, obtaining an overview of previously prescribed medications and doses.

system from the patient’s bedside, which meant there was no way to rule out the pos- sibility that the wrong medication might be prescribed.

That’s why the clinic opted for the RFID solution. For one thing, RFID guarantee that patients will not be incorrectly identified — something that can happen all too easily when paper files are inadvertently switched. What’s more, doctors can now access a pa- tient’s medication program within seconds to determine whether a drug they want to pre- scribe might produce a negative effect in combination with medications already being taken by the patient.

The RFID program began in Saarbrücken in mid-2005, and a total of 1,000 patients will soon have been given the units. The project partner for the radio wristbands is Siemens Business Services (SBS), whose specialized staff in Munich were responsible for program- ming the hospital’s pocket PCs and creating the interface and WLAN network for the con- nection to its central computer.

For some time now, physicians in Saar- brücken have been working with a computer program for medications that automatically determines if side effects could occur in situ- ations where a patient is taking several differ- ent medications, or whether a patient’s age or medical condition might preclude the use of certain types of medicine. Until now, how- ever, doctors haven’t had direct access to the

Reliable Identification. The RFID system in use at Saarbrücken is based on knowledge that SBS gained during pilot project for radio labels, which was conducted at Jacobi Med- ical Center in New York. “The RFID project launched in New York in the summer of 2004 impressed Jacobi’s doctors and nurses so much that the hospital decided to implement it as a regular system in the spring of 2005,”

The right data — right at the doctor’s fingertips. RFID wristbands and pocket PCs ensure reliable patient identification.

says Thomas Jell of SBS, who is responsible for both projects.

In New York, Jacobi’s initial aim was to en- sure reliable identification of all patients. Prior to the project, patients received standard pa- per wristbands with ID numbers that staff had to type into pocket computers every time they visited a patient. But despite the ID numbers, incorrect data entries led to patient identifica- tion mix-ups and prescription problems.

The hospital obviously needed an elec- tronic solution. The first decision was in favor of bar codes, which were being used in other areas of the medical center. But the advan- tages of RFID labels were simply too great for the medical center’s administration to ignore. Unlike bar code labels, RFID labels aren’t sus- ceptible to damage by humidity or scratching, both of which can make bar codes unread- able. RFID labels, on the other hand, can even be read through bed covers.

According to Daniel Morreale, director of data processing at Jacobi Medical Center, the RFID solution helps to save time and reduce paperwork. Morreale is even thinking of ex- panding the system — for example, to include monitoring heart disease patients. Here, a sensor that measures pulse rate could be linked to the radio chip, which would then send the data to the nurses’ station. If pulse were to deteriorate dramatically, the device would transmit an alarm — even if the pa- tient was not in bed.

  • Tim Schröder

D I G I TA L

H E A LT H

  • Passau Radiology Center

Holistic healthcare. High-tech equipment and efficient com- puter networks, com- bined with advanced architecture and lighting design, put patients at ease while creating a relaxing atmosphere.

Putting IT into Practice

Whether for teleradiology or a therapy center, Siemens’ medical equipment and information technology guarantee fully integrated clinical processes at the Passau Radiology Center.

e he Passau Radiology Center in southeast- r n G e r m a n y i s a f o r - p r o f i t m e d i c a l o r - T ganization that provides ample proof that doctors can be outstanding entrepreneurs. The center was established 14 years ago by its four founding members with the aim of con- tinuously improving the quality of diagnostic radiology, and it has been expanding its activ- ities ever since. It started by helping to set up a medical equipment depot at the Passau Clinic, soon acquired CT and MR tomographs, established an Institute of Diagnostic Radiol- ogy in the center of Passau, and founded one branch office after another. “Siemens was our strategic partner from the very beginning. The company not only supplied ultra-modern technical equipment and IT; it also created detailed business plans for us,” says Dr. Stefan Braitinger, head of the Passau Radiology Center.

The doctors’ business venture now com- prises ten partners and 72 employees and has annual sales of approximately 14 million eu- ros. Its core is a large shared practice that in-

cludes a well-established radiology center, an OR area and, since April 2004, a center for ra- diation therapy. “Right from the outset, we wanted to expand from diagnostics to ther- apy,” says Braitinger. “Our goal was to fully in- tegrate the new radiotherapy unit into our workflow management. We wanted to have only one electronic file per patient, one digi- tal picture archive, and all of this on a joint IT platform.” Today, the entire clinical process is fully digitized, from central appointment cal- endar to diagnostics, including X-ray image archiving, therapy planning and documenta- tion of cancer patients’ radiation therapy. “Thanks to digitization, we save a lot of time, and we use that time to provide consultation with our patients. The doctor and the patient sit together in front of the monitor. The doc- tor calls up the patient’s X-ray images with the press of a button and explains the diagnosis,” Braitinger says.

Teleradiology has also been successfully practiced here for years. “A total of 17 medical practices are linked in our teleradiology net-

work. We use a secure point-to-point link to transmit the diagnosis and the images created in our clinic to the referring physician, who may be an orthopedist, neurologist or sur- geon,” says Braitinger. Thanks to the markings on the images, the referring physician knows immediately what he or she needs to look for. If any points are still unclear, the diagnosis is discussed on the phone.

“We also provide five clinics in the sur- rounding area with radiological solutions for diagnosis as well as for therapy. The images from these clinics’ emergency diagnostics departments are sent via data transmission systems to our central office in Passau for diagnosis. We’re open around the clock, 365 days a year,” Braitinger adds. “Whether we’re talking about teleradiology or the therapy center, Siemens has proved itself a reliable and expert partner.” And the outstanding cooperation is by no means over. Plans call for the center for radiation therapy to be ex- p a n d e d a n d f o r a n e w b r a n c h t o b e o p e n e d b y U l r i k e Z e c h b a u e r June 2006

Pictures of the Future | Fall 2005

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