Healthcare Information Technology – RFID in the Pharmacy

The information below is a result of a discussion I had with my brother James, who works as a pharmacist, on how technology like RFID can improve the delivery of health care to people.

As challenging and chaotic as hospitals can be, hospital pharmacists do not encounter the same volume of people than their retail counterparts. There is no comparison. Hospital pharmacists have enough time to do everything they need to. Pharmacists at retail locations continually handle the daily volume of phone calls with patients.

When filling prescriptions in cups or containers at hospital locations, technicians physically fill the cups or containers with patient medication. Pharmacists review or check the cups or containers contents in the pharmacy area. The filled cups or containers are then placed onto a cart on the floor that the nurses dispense to the patients while in the hospital. The additional check would be where the nurse scans the patient’s wristband, which would display the pill images of what should be in the cup. Then scans the cup before dosing the patient. The hardest step I believe if having a standardized EMR that could be interfaced with the system.

The following list of issues may be used as a guide to determine want to focus on when addressing potential solutions for the associated issue.

1. Look-Alike, Sound-Alike Medication Names

Confusing drug names is one of the most common causes of medication errors and is a worldwide concern. With tens of thousands of drugs currently on the market, the potential for error created by confusing brand or generic drug names and packaging is significant.

2. Patient Identification

The widespread and continuing failures to correctly identify patients often leads to medication, transfusion and testing errors; wrong person procedures; and the discharge of infants to the wrong families.

3. Communication During Patient Hand Overs

Gaps in hand-over (or hand-off) communication between patient care units, and between and among care teams, can cause serious breakdowns in the continuity of care, inappropriate treatment, and potential harm for the patient.

4. Performance of Correct Procedure at Correct Body Site

Considered totally preventable, cases of wrong procedure or wrong site surgery are largely the result of miscommunication and unavailable, or incorrect, information. A major contributing factor to these types of errors is the lack of a standardized preoperative process.

5. Control of Concentrated Electrolyte Solutions

While all drugs, biologics, vaccines and contrast media have a defined risk profile, concentrated electrolyte solutions that are used for injection are especially dangerous.

6. Assuring Medication Accuracy at Transitions in Care

Medication errors occur most commonly at transitions. Medication reconciliation is a process designed to prevent medication errors at patient transition points.

7. Avoiding Catheter and Tubing Missed Connections

The design of tubing, catheters, and syringes currently in use is such that it is possible to inadvertently cause patient harm through connecting the wrong syringes and tubing and then delivering medication or fluids through an unintended wrong route.

8. Single Use of Injection Devices

One of the biggest global concerns is the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), and the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) because of the reuse of injection needles.

9. Improved Hand Hygiene to Prevent Health Care-Associated Infection

It is estimated that at any point in time more than 1.4 million people worldwide are suffering from infections acquired in hospitals. Effective hand hygiene is the primary preventive measure for avoiding this problem.


The UI (user interface) could potentially look like a bag of M&M’s spread out on a white background. The UI would simplify the process of detecting when something is amiss with either the charting or the medication order.

The following image symbolizes the workflow.


I am a technologist with a strong background in software engineering. I have many interests. My current distractions are 70s-80s-90s music [it's a very eclectic collection], ontology, information architecture, mobile device technology, medical bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, and nanorobotics.

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