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RFID solutions aim to improve elderly caregiving

As RFID plays a greater role in healthcare, specific use cases are starting to develop, including applications that target the elderly to improve safety and ease out of control healthcare spending.

An RFID-based, real-time location system that can pinpoint exactly where elderly people are in their homes and track their movements is one of four apps competing in the HISA Apps Challenge at the Health Informatics Conference in Melbourne, Australia this week.

The solution proposes to utilize wearable RFID technology for the elderly, allowing relatives or caregivers to know their whereabouts within the home and to trigger alerts if the person is inactive for a certain period of time.

According to Australian journal Pulse+IT, the solution utilizes real-time location system using RFID tags and wireless antennas as a cost-effective alternative to other systems such as wristbands or pendants, which elderly people are liable to take off or forget to wear.

The signals emitted by RFID tags are strong enough to be picked up by the antennas and are able to pinpoint the exact location of the person in the home in real time.

Dhruv Verma, a 14-year-old Melbourne student who developed the solution, says it is very cost effective. “The tag costs about eight dollars and the antennas cost eight or nine, and you can probably wire up the whole house for a few hundred dollars.”

The solution is still under development, and Verma is seeking development partners.

RFID and the Internet of Things are showing great promise for improving quality of life and reducing the cost of providing healthcare. In France, about 15,000 home health workers were recently provided with NFC-enabled badges so they can check in and check out of the homes that they visit. In the past, it was difficult to track if health aides were at the assignments that they are paid for.

The NFC solution allows the government to confirm that a health aide arrived at a certain location before granting payment. Luke D’Arcy, director of U.S. operations for SigFox, a pioneer in energy efficient IoT connectivity, says that the system is close to being expanded to include long-range RFID badges. This addition will allow patients in their homes to verify that the person at their door is a qualified caregiver.

“The RFID tag can be detected through a door and and serve the dual purpose of providing reassurance that the person is an authorized caregiver, while also allowing them to check in and check out, proving that they performed the hours of work that they claimed.”

Aside from making life safer for elderly people, the above solutions will save money by avoiding fraudulent claims and decreasing the need for home well-being checks by government agencies.

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