Automated identification and data capture systems, such as barcode and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) can be a key enabler for reducing errors and enhancing safety throughout the blood product supply chain. While barcode technology has been available for decades and has been shown to reduce mis-transfusion errors, the limitations of this technology have proven to be a barrier to broader adoption.
RFID does not require line-of-sight, allows simultaneous read of multiple tags, is able to store more information on the chip than a barcode, and enables automatic identification and data capture. The advantages of RFID technology and its potential benefits of improving safety, quality, productivity and responsiveness in the delivery of care to patients have not gone unnoticed by the blood banking and transfusion medicine community.
RFID uses a chip (transponder) that can be "awakened" by a reader/writer within the effective range of the specific frequency being used. An antenna, also embedded in the RFID tag, captures and holds onto the radio signal. Once "awake", the RFID tag can then transmit data stored on the chip or can receive and store additional data as requested by the reader/writer.
There are three primary RFID technologies in use today, all differentiated by the frequencies at which they operate. Each frequency range brings with it a reliable set of characteristics.
Ultra High Frequency - UHF (frequency range between 300 MHz and 3 GHz [3000 MHz]), is probably the most widely-used frequency range in use, and is ideally suited for most supply chain and warehouse/shipping applications. Its effective range is considerable, making it a good choice when reading pallets of RFID tags on trucks or moving through warehouse entrances. In the delicate and critical medical environment, however, it offers considerable risk of interference with other devices, including implanted medical devices. Further, its use is considerably inhibited by liquids.
Very High Frequency - VHF (frequency range between 30MHz and 300MHz) plays a very limited role in the RFID market.
High Frequency - HF (frequency range between 3 and 30 MHz), has a highly restricted effective range of around one foot. While this restriction makes it impractical for many uses, it offers less risk of electromagnetic interference with medical devices. Its use is also recognized as internationally-allowable without undue restriction. The ISBT guideline for RFID adoption selected this frequency band for use in transfusion medicine.
Types of RFID Tags
Active, semi-passive and passive RFID tags can be used to make adoption of RFID technology versatile enough to accommodate the needs of our many business sectors. The variety of tags can be made small enough to fit on almost any product.
Active and semi-passive RFID tags use internal batteries to power their circuits. An active tag also uses its battery to broadcast radio waves to a reader, whereas a semi-passive tag relies on the reader to supply its power for broadcasting. Because these tags contain more hardware than passive RFID tags, they are more expensive. Active and semi-passive tags are reserved for costly items that are read over larger distances. Additional batteries can boost a tag's range to even greater distances.
Passive RFID tags rely entirely on the reader as their power source. These tags are read up to 20 feet away, and they have lower production costs, meaning that they can be applied to less expensive merchandise. These tags are manufactured to be disposable. Whereas an active RFID tag might be best suited for truck trailer, a passive tag is more suited for use on a bag of blood product. Our study has selected a passive tag.
Equipment Required for Use
Depending on the environment in which RFID will be used, readers and writers are available for use off-the-shelf. Each is developed for a specific frequency range (as are the tags) and requires that appropriate drivers be written for their use. Reader/writers come in a variety of configurations that are selectable according to their intended use: portals, tunnels, flatbeds, hand-helds, etc. Tunnels, flatbeds and hand-helds are most appropriate for use in transfusion medicine.
The number and types required for a particular application depend on the size of the organization as well as geographical proximity of all the components. A computer system, including specialized software, is also required to manage all the readers and handle data.
Please see How it works for more details.
Auto-ID based tracking system developed as a result of a National Institute of Health STTRGrant secures FDA 510(k) pre-market clearance, SysLogic initiates transfer to S3Edge. S3Edge, Inc. welcomes the announcement by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) that iTrace for BloodCenters, the trac...
Nov. 20, 2012—The Transfusion Medicine RFID Consortium reports that it has submitted the results of a radio frequency identification pilot to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as part of a request for 510(k) clearance of the blood-tracking solution. The consortium's membership includes...
Auto-ID based tracking system developed as a result of the National Institute of Health STTR Grant, enters commercialization phase ...
July 19, 2012 - Production pilots were completed in June for the RFID solution at both the blood center and the hospital. BloodCenter of Wisconsin (Milwaukee) conducted an eight-week pilot from blood donation through packing and shipping to hospital customers, including both whole blood and...