6 Reasons RFID Labels Will Transform Hospital Pharmacy Automation

Hospitals are notorious for having complex inventory systems that track medical devices, supplies, equipment, and other tools needed to provide critical care to patients. For years, hospitals have leaned on technology like radio frequency identification (RFID) to automate this process. In recent years Hospitals have utilized RFID Labels to enable pharmacy automation to drastically save time, money, business intelligence, and improve patient safety. 

Many hospital administrators have realized that RFID Label technology embedded in pharmaceutical labels can also enhance their ability to track millions of doses of medications and other drugs and enable pharmacy automation. Here are six reasons why RFID pharmaceutical tracking is the next wave of innovation for the healthcare industry.

1. RFID Labels Improved Inventory Management

In the United States alone, there are over 350 million doses of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by hospitals each year. This requires an astoundingly meticulous inventory management system to keep track of all incoming shipments and outgoing doses administered by hospital staff.

While 2D barcoding does provide advanced tracking, it requires manual scanning and processing by hospital workers as drug and prescription inventory moves through the system. RFID-enabled packaging and labels can bring a faster, more automated sophistication to the hospital’s drug inventory management process.

RFID labels placed inside the medication containers or embedded in pharmaceutical labels are designed to automatically send data and location information to the inventory tracking system without any input from humans. This ensures that hospital staff always know the quantities and location of every medication or drug within the facility. In addition, RFID labels are coded with other information from the pharmaceutical company including the manufacturer’s name, medication name, drug serial number, lot number, and expiration date.

An added benefit of RFID-enabled labels is to ensure that hospitals are able to quickly identify dwindling supplies and order more medications before they run out.

2. RFID Labels Can Increase Staffing Efficiency

Checking pharmaceutical labels, measuring dosages, and restocking medical trays are time-consuming activities for hospital staff. RFID labels on medications and other drugs can save time and reduce the cost of labor.

After one hospital, North York General Hospital (NYGH), implemented an automated RFID tracking system for its pharmaceutical inventory, they achieved significant staff savings. Historically, it took their team over eight minutes to review a single medical tray containing between 75 and 140 medications for accuracy. With RFID technology, the system automatically provided the pharmacy technician with a list of all the consumed and expired medications in a matter of seconds so they could replace the items. Once restocked, the tray was scanned again to inventory and ensure the correct medications and quantities were present. This improved process allowed NYGH’s to restock medication trays in half the time.

3. RFID Labels Increase Patient Safety

Patient safety is a hospital’s number one priority. Unfortunately, millions of medication errors are made each year around the globe. Most of these incidents are a result of human error. The most common errors include confusing prescriptions with similar names, inconsistent labeling, or distractions. Patients become especially vulnerable to these mistakes in emergency situations where medical staff needs to react quickly to provide care.

With RFID technology many of these errors are completely avoidable. Instead of relying on human judgment, RFID labeling can provide extremely fast and accurate information to hospital staff on the medications being used to help reduce the number of mistakes. This can also allow the hospital to reconcile and record every medication used to reduce the risk of malpractice lawsuits.

Another benefit that NYGH found after implementing their RFID tracking system was a reduced number of medication errors. Instead of occasional errors by pharmaceutical technicians, accuracy improved to 100%. The hospital estimates that this technology will prevent approximately 2,500 medication errors each year in their facility alone.

Some medications are required to be kept at a certain temperature. RFID labels can also provide an alert to hospital staff if the product has been removed from a refrigerated cabinet for too long and has exceeded its beyond use date (or BUD).

4. Security and Crime Reduction

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about $83 billion in counterfeit drugs are sold around the world each year. Legislation in the US (Drug Supply Chain Security Act) and European Union (Falsified Medicines Directive) aim to reduce this by requiring pharmaceutical companies to label pharmaceuticals with certain information for tracking purposes. RFID technology can create an added layer of protection since these required date points are built into the RFID chip.

Drug addiction and misuse of pharmaceutical drugs and other controlled substances is a major problem around the world. Hospitals can leverage RFID technology to help ensure that medications within their inventory systems don’t get into the wrong hands.

5. Enhanced Data Security

Maintaining and tracking patient records manually can lead to data security issues, especially as a result of human error. RFID technology in pharmaceutical labels allows for critical data to be transferred securely between databases to ensure that a patient’s medical records remain private and won’t be stolen.

The key challenge will be figuring out how RFID label providers can create a universal standard for pre-tagging medications and other medical products. This will allow for these medical products to be able to transfer between the various inventory tracking systems and platforms that different hospitals use.

6. RFID Labels Provide Efficient Drug Recalls

When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identifies a potential issue with a medication or drug such as a previously unknown side effect or manufacturer contamination, they must move quickly to ensure that the drugs are recalled and not distributed to patients. Some drugs have millions of doses within the pharmaceutical supply chain. Tracking all of these medications down is extremely time consuming and difficult.

RFID labeled medications can easily be tracked. Not only can the FDA quickly receive audits of all existing inventory, but alerts can be triggered in inventory tracking systems to notify health care providers of a recall before the drug is administered.

The Future of RFID Labels in Hospital Pharmacy Automation

There is no doubt that RFID label technology will revolutionize how pharmaceutical drugs are tracked, distributed, and administered in hospitals. Currently, only 11% of US hospitals have RFID systems that track pharmaceuticals. Slow adoption is mostly a result of the DSCSA’s 2D barcode requirement. Until RFID technology is permitted to replace or substitute 2D barcodes, it has the protentional to be a very powerful tracking method that could dramatically reduce current workflows.

As hospitals realize the many benefits that RFID technology can bring to tracking their pharmaceutical inventory, experts believe that hospitals will continue to drive demand in the RFID industry increasing its value (from a current $15 billion) to over $35 billion by the year 2030.

Who is CCL Healthcare?

CCL Healthcare is a world leader in printed secondary packaging with 35 cGMP facilities world-wide and growing. Our dedicated team of experts are solely focused on manufacturing innovative packaging solutions for the pharmaceutical, medical device, biotech, and the life science industries.  

 Smart and Intelligent Packaging  

Since launching the first RFID label on a commercially available pharmaceutical product in the early 2000’s, CCL Healthcare has continued to pave the way for innovative smart packaging solutions. CCL Healthcare now offers fully integrated hardware and software solutions for IOT, RFID, NFC, and dual frequency packaging.  

CCL Healthcare is a proud member of UnitVisID and solution partner for GS1 

RFID Pharmacy Automation
RFID Pharmacy Automation

Newsletter Sign-up