Of the many industries using Near Field Communication (NFC) to add convenience, increase efficiency, and automate processes, healthcare is gaining ground. In a recent report, issued by technology analysts Transparency Market Research (TMR), healthcare is one of the fastest growing segments for NFC, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.4%.
The NFC Forum has taken note, and considers healthcare a key vertical market sector. They’ve even established a Healthcare special interest group (SIG) to help expand its use, says, Cristina Ardila, senior marketing manager for Security and Connectivity, NXP.
So why all the attention? Several reasons. NFC is intuitive to use, widely available, and cost-effective to implement, but, perhaps most important, provides the advanced security needed to protect medical information.
Here are six ways NFC helps healthcare organisations provide better, safer care:
- Secure physical access (to buildings, medications, equipment, etc.)
Many healthcare facilities, including hospitals, treatment centers, clinics, and even pharmacies, have areas that are open to the public and areas that aren’t. It’s important to keep these areas separate, and only allow authorised personnel to access things like medical cabinets or operating rooms. Employee badges, smartphones, and other devices can be equipped with NFC for access privileges, and NFC tags can track and log every entrance and exit.
- Secure logical access (to medical information)
The virtual world needs the same kind of protection as the physical world, especially when there’s medical information involved. At the same time, healthcare personnel need quick, convenient access to databases and files, so they can provide the best possible care. Using NFC to control access to computers, tablets, and other devices is a convenient, secure way to protect data while making it faster and more efficient to perform routine tasks, such as updating files and checking records.
- Real-time updates on patient care
NFC lets you track where people are, and who’s done what. Medical staff can know, in real time, where a patient is, when the nurse last visited, or what treatment a doctor just administered. Data is captured and stored in access-controlled databases, and viewable in different formats, to help streamline logistics, simplify record-keeping, and prevent errors. NFC tags and NFC-enabled wristbands can replace the traditional bracelets worn by patients, and can be updated with real-time information, such as when a medication was last given, or which procedure needs to be performed.
- Intelligent ID bracelets
NFC helps in everyday situations, too. People with life-threatening conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, or allergies to food or medications, can replace their metal “Medic-Alert” bracelets with NFC-enabled wristbands that can provide greater detail to first responders in an emergency. (One such bracelet has already been demonstrated by HealthID Profile – here are the details.)
- Home monitoring
NFC opens up new possibilities for home monitoring, since an NFC-enabled wristband can be configured to track vital signs. The patient taps the wristband to a smartphone or tablet, and the medical data is transmitted to the doctor’s office, where a medical professional can check it. People who have chronic conditions can see a caregiver less often, and people who are recovering from an illness or surgery can return home sooner.
- Safer medications
When NFC tags are added to a medication’s packaging or labeling, simply tapping the tag with a smartphone or tablet lets you verify the medication’s authenticity, view details about dosages, or read about side effects and drug interactions. The tag can also provide access to web links, to get more information, request a refill, or contact a medical professional.
These are just some of the ways NFC can enhance healthcare. As the industry continues to adopt the technology, we can expect NFC to play a major role in enhancing care by reducing costs, increasing efficiency, and improving outcomes – in healthcare facilities and at home.
The author of this blog is Cristina Ardila, senior marketing manager for Security and Connectivity, NXP
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