Fri, Jul 06, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Hospital to use RFID technology

BIG BROTHER?A hospital plans to fit its mentally ill patients with bracelets that trigger an alert if someone unauthorized attempts to remove them

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The same radio frequency identification (RFID) technology that enables commuters to enter the MRT with one swipe of their easycard may soon give medical professionals at Hualien's Yu Li Hospital the ability to track a portion of their 2,500 mentally ill patients.

Yu Li Hospital is working in conjunction with Chunghwa Telecom to develop RFID bracelets that will help detect and locate patients in the event they have a fall, an accident or go missing, said Yu Li's director of medical affairs Hu Tsung-Ming (胡宗明).

In addition to locating patients, the bracelets will come with a sensor that measures each patients' body temperature and beams back the information to the hospital's computer system. They will also contain a panic button for patients to press if they need immediate help, Hu said.

Residents with the ability to control their condition with the help of medication are encouraged to be active within the confines of Yu Li's facilities.

There are no iron bars on the windows of the "living communities" where highly functional residents live. However, Hu said there was still a need to keep tabs on patients for safety's sake.

"We are not trying to track or control the location of patients, but to make sure they are not in danger," he said.

For example, if a patient is detected as being immobile in the bathroom for an extended period of time a staff member may check to make sure he or she is alright, Hu said.

Another benefit the bracelet might bring is to reduce staffing costs for routine actions such as roll calls and taking temperatures, Hu said. The bracelets are waterproof, impact-resistant and issue immediate alerts if residents attempts to remove them.

Only 30 percent of patients have consented to wearing such a bracelet thus far, Hu said.

"It will take some time to convince them to trust the new technology," he said.

Around 100 residents are scheduled to test the new technology in September, according to a hospital release. An update on the progress of the program should be out by the end of the year, Hu said.

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