RFID chips for patient tracking on cards at DHB

Extension of hospital on Auckland's North Shore may get devices

Waitemata District Health Board is on the hunt for a system that will let it track patients and equipment in a new $48 million hospital wing. The system could have patients tagged with radio frequency chips to help track their movements. Spokeswoman Lydia Aydon says the system will be used in the Lakeview extension at North Shore Hospital, which will house a redesigned emergency department and new 50-bed assessment and diagnostic unit. The board is exploring options for tracking patients and equipment in order to "improve the efficient working of the hospital and help maximise the time of clinical staff". Health Alliance – which provides IT services for Waitemata and Counties Manukau health boards – has called for expressions of interest from potential vendors. Procurement specialist Wayne Morris says the system could be based on RFID technology, or ultra wideband radio technology – which is used for short-range, high bandwidth communications. "It could even be a combination of RFID and Bluetooth. It depends on the solution providers offer and what the health board decides its requirements are. It depends on pricing as well." Construction of the Lakeview extension is due to finish in the middle of 2011. Last year Hawke's Bay Hospital canned a trial that would have had patients tagged with RFID chips to track their movements. The board planned to use the electronic tags, monitored by wireless scanners, to identify bottlenecks in the hospital system and help it better manage beds and roster staff. But spokeswoman Anna Kirk said plans for the trial were abandoned after the board decided it would not reveal any new information. "We would be following the patient's movements from A to B to C, but we already knew what that was."

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