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Harvard Medical School develops NFC medication tracking system

The new technology combines Android tablet PCs with NFC tags attached to patients’ wristbands, medications and nurses’ ID badges and is designed to make the administration of medicines easier, safer, faster and more cost-effective, Dr Adam Landman has told NFC World.

Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH)

BWH: Harvard’s teaching hospital

Harvard Medical School’s teaching affiliate Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) has developed an NFC system aimed at making it easier for nurses to track and administer each patient’s medication.

The new bedside system uses a combination of Google Nexus 7 NFC devices, which run the new application and store details of each patient and their prescribed medications, and NFC tags attached to patient wristbands, medication packages and employee ID badges.

When administering medication, nurses use the NFC tablet to tap the tags on the patient’s wristband, on the medication and on their ID badge. The application running on the tablet then checks to see if the medication and dosage is the correct one for the patient and records which medication was administered to the patient and by whom.

Currently the hospital is using a barcode system which works in a similar way to the new NFC system but, instead of tapping NFC tags, nurses scan barcodes using portable workstations.

The NFC application has been developed by a team led by Dr Adam Landman, director of clinical informatics for BWH’s emergency medicine department, and is currently being tested in the hospital’s simulation lab, using mannequins as substitute patients.

“Barcodes can be really difficult to scan”

Dr Landman told NFC World: “There are a couple of challenges we are facing with the barcode system. First, the workstations that nurses are using can be large and really difficult to navigate in a healthcare setting and second, the barcodes can be really difficult to scan.

“So we have been looking for a solution to make this easier. We are right in the middle of the study at the moment and are seeing good results so far. We are finding that it has been very well received.”

If the trial proves to be a success, the hospital hopes to take the small trial to the hospital floor itself.

Dr Landman continued: “We will want to trial it in a clinical environment too, as well as the simulation lab.

“There is a strong appetite for technology in the United States. It is a growing trend for hospitals to adopt electronic medication administration record (eMAR) technology because administering medicine is a very common activity for nurses to do; on average, they spend 28% of their time doing it.

“If we can make that process easier, safer and faster as well as being more cost-effective then NFC is a technology a lot of hospitals will be interesting in using, which is why we have conducted the trial.

“Right now, the application we are trialling is a simple one. It only contains the patient’s name and their medication information. But it has so much potential going forward into the future.”

A video produced by BWH shows the system in action:

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