Sensors, 18, p. 1-18 (2018); doi:10.3390/s18082663
Radio frequency identification (RFID) has become a key technology in the logistics and management industry, thanks to distinctive features such as the low cost of RFID tags, and the easiness of the RFID tags’ deployment and integration within the items to be tracked. In consequence, RFID plays a fundamental role in the so-called digital factory or 4.0 Industry, aiming to increase the level of automatization of industrial processes. In addition, RFID has also been found to be of great help in improving the tracking of patients, medicines, and medical assets in hospitals, where the digitalization of these operations improves their efficiency and safety. This contribution reviews the state-of-the-art of RFID for e-Health applications, describing the contributions to improve medical services and discussing the limitations. In particular, it has been found that a lot of effort has been put into software development, but in most of the cases a detailed study of the physical layer (that is, the characterization of the RFID signals within the area where the system is deployed) is not properly conducted. This contribution describes a basic RFID system for tracking and managing assets in hospitals, aiming to provide additional details about implementation aspects that must be considered to ensure proper functionality of the system. Although the scope of the RFID system described in this contribution is restricted to a small area of the hospital, the architecture is fully scalable to cover the needs of the different medical services in the hospital. Ultra high-frequency (UHF) RFID technology is selected over the most extended near-field communication (NFC) and high-frequency (HF) RFID technology to minimize hardware infrastructure. In particular, UHF RFID also makes the coverage/reading area conformation easier by using different kinds of antennas. Information is stored in a database, which is accessed from end-user mobile devices (tablets, smartphones) where the position and status of the assets to be tracked are displayed.
This work has been undertaken under a collaboration framework between the Area of Signal Theory and Communications of the University of Oviedo (TSC-UNIOVI), the Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias (HUCA), and the Hochschule Mannheim to assess the possibility of implementing the RFID system described in this contribution in the HUCA hospital.