Radiofrequency ID Company Eyes Medical Error Market

Originally Published MDDI February 2002NEWS & ANALYSIS Erik Swain

Erik Swain

February 1, 2002

2 Min Read
Radiofrequency ID Company Eyes Medical Error Market

Originally Published MDDI February 2002


Erik Swain

Although its magnitude is disputed, no one denies that the United States healthcare system faces a serious problem with medical errors. Estimates of the cost due to medication errors alone range from $76 billion to more than $177 billion a year. Among the companies who see this problem as a ripe market for their technologies is Avante International, which specializes in radiofrequency identification.

According to company president Kevin Chung, Avante had not considered entering the healthcare market before seeing the astronomical sums lost on medical errors. The company then used its technology to develop a patient-tracking system called Positive Patient Medication Matching. The system shares what Chung calls the "inherent advantage" of radiofrequency identification (RFID) over bar codes, which is that a direct line of sight is not required when scanning.

A traditional drawback for RFID, however, has been its substantial surface-area requirements. For this reason, most applications of RFID in healthcare have been on transport packaging rather than primary packaging. What sets Avante's RFID system apart from others, says Chung, is that it will work on very small vials and syringes without any risk to the code's integrity.

Another drawback of this technology has been security. RFID is a writeable code and can be changed after it leaves the factory or warehouse. In response, Avante created a "relational check code" (RCC) method. Like all RFID, Avante's has a permanent code that is burned in with a specific identification along with a writeable portion. RCC adds a third code that combines the other two using encryption. This third code cannot be copied.

The system runs on a universal platform with open architecture, which Chung hopes will meet the global needs of drug and device companies. It uses an ISO-standard frequency of 13.56 MHz, and will be able to interact with existing drug-interaction and other databases.

The system's antenna, in the form of a small shelf, is designed to be placed next to the patient in a hospital setting. The caregiver puts the patient's tag, the prescription's tag, and the tagged medications on the shelf. The system will then signal whether this is the right medication for the right patient.

Avante's first push will be for military and VA hospitals. Applications for the civilian sector may still be a "few years off," according to Chung.

On December 3, 2001, FDA published a proposed regulation that would require bar codes on all drug and biological products to reduce the number of medication errors. Avante believes that the proposal, despite its specification of "bar codes," leaves room for the RFID system.

Copyright ©2002 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry

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