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RTLS vs. RFID: A decisive choice for efficient and accurate real-time healthcare management

In a hospital environment, efficient resource management is crucial to free medical professionals from administrative and operational tasks. This allows them to focus on what matters most: providing quality patient care. Real-time location systems play a key role in providing accurate and up-to-date information on the location of assets and patients, enabling optimal resource allocation and informed decision-making.

One of the decisions healthcare providers must make when implementing this technology is whether to use RTLS (real-time locating systems) or RFID (radio frequency identification). The choice can have a significant impact on the overall efficiency and effectiveness of a healthcare facility. In this article, we will discuss the differences between active RTLS and passive RFID, as well as the advantages of using an active RTLS system in healthcare.

RTLS vs. RFID: Major differences

Although RTLS and RFID are classified as location-based services, there are major differences between the two technologies.

Passive RFIDs are small devices that do not have their own power source and are activated when scanned with a radio frequency signal. Passive RFIDs are a good choice for certain hospital location use cases, such as for inventory control of medical supplies and other low-cost items.

However, for locating patients and higher-value assets, such as high-tech medical equipment, an active real-time locating system (RTLS) is recommended. Active RTLS uses tags that transmit a radio frequency signal at regular intervals, allowing nearby receivers to detect the tag’s location in real-time.

📍 Tracking and monitoring capability

One of the main differences between RTLS and RFID is the ability to track and monitor movement in real-time. RTLS systems have the advantage of being able to display the location of an object in real-time, whereas RFID systems provide information about the location of an object only when it is in close proximity to a reader.

📍 Accuracy and coverage

Active RTLS provides higher accuracy and coverage than passive RFID; since active tags can emit signals continuously and be detected by multiple antennas at different locations. Passive RFID, on the other hand, can have accuracy and coverage problems if the tags’ signal is blocked or interfered with by nearby objects.

📍 Flow control

Another important factor to consider is flow control. Active RTLS enables more effective flow control, as it can identify the direction of movement of the localized object. This provides complete visibility over the flow of patients and assets in the hospital environment, allowing for more effective planning, resource optimization and faster response to critical situations.

📍 Chance of interference

Interference caused by RFID antennas can be another problem, as it can affect other equipment and devices. In addition, the exciters needed to activate passive RFID tags are expensive and require a lot of power to activate the tags, which may not be ideal for hospital environments.

📍 Usage and administration

Moreover, ease of use is an important factor to consider. Active RTLS is easier to use and manage, as active tags can be monitored and configured from a centralized system. Passive RFID, on the other hand, may require a more complex system for tag management.

📍 Standards and regulations

Finally, standards and regulatory compliance are critical aspects when considering real-time locating (RTLS) and radio frequency identification (RFID) technologies in hospital environments.

Ultimately, while both active RTLS and passive RFID must comply with these regulations, active RTLS offers additional advantages. Advantages such as low-power signal emission, greater range and coverage, and the ability to provide continuous, real-time location.

Active RTLS: The most accurate and efficient choice for optimized healthcare process management

In summary, while passive RFID systems may be a good choice for certain hospital use cases, for the precise location of patients and higher valued assets, the use of an active RTLS system is recommended.

The ability of RTLS to free medical professionals from non-essential tasks and allow them to focus on providing quality patient care is evident. It is a key tool that makes a difference in the efficiency and accuracy of medical care.

Want to learn more about how RTLS is able to automate, streamline and simplify the most complex processes in a healthcare organization? Discover our success stories:

Hospital Vall d’Ebron – Barcelona

Saint Joseph Hospital – Paris