Tracking the NHS

The Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network, the Mobile Data Association and the Royal National Institute of Blind People gathered recently to discuss how technology impacts healthcare and assisted living. Representatives discussed how location applications are improving the efficiency and quality of patient care within hospitals.

Current initiatives include hospital patients wearing RFID tags to store medical records and images so doctors, nurses and surgeons can retrieve the correct data before administrating treatment or medication. Birmingham Heartlands Hospital is using this technique in its Safe Surgery System. Another initiative uses asset tracking to check the location of valuable items such as crash trolleys, infusion pumps, beds and wheelchairs. A number of hospitals are piloting this by using active WiFi tags attached to equipment. Return on investment is based on the reduction of inventory and time spent locating equipment.

The abduction of newborn babies can also be prevented with tamper proof active UHF tags, which are then liked to a UHF antennae and door security systems, preventing unauthorised movement of children. In this way hospitals can also ensure the security of patients with dementia. Active UHF tags linked to a UHF antenna can alert staff to whether a patient is moving away from a specific area. Drug companies are already tagging pharmaceuticals so that drugs can be monitored if lost or stolen. AstraZeneca has tagged more than 50 million syringes to ensure patients are given the right dose of products.

The panel agreed that the issues facing this technology is a compatibility problem between hardware and software applications, as well as a lack of ‘joined up thinking’ from technology companies.

Location and Timing Knowledge Transfer Network representative Bob Cockshott said: ‘To really push forward to the next level we need more joined up thinking between manufacturers and better systems integration to really reap the rewards on a grand scale.’

Mobile Data Association executive director Nick Hunn explained: ‘We have to get technology companies, healthcare companies and hospitals to talk to each other and work out the best ways to draw maximum benefit from these emerging technologies.’

He added: ‘Such innovation may also come from outside the traditional healthcare sector.’