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3M Track And Trace Solutions Installs RFID System To Manage Records At Fort Hood

RFID technology uses a microchip and tiny antenna implanted in a tag, which is attached to an object, in much the same way as a barcode.
by Staff Writers
Fort Hood TX (SPX) Jun 27, 2008
3M has completed the development and installation of an RFID (radio frequency identification) Smart Shelf System to track and manage the more than 150,000 medical files of U.S. Army personnel and their family members at Fort Hood, Texas.

Under the terms of a three-year, $3.76-million contract, 3M Track and Trace Solutions will provide training and maintenance services over the next year.

Fort Hood, situated about 60 miles north of Austin, the state capital, is the nation's largest active-duty domestic armed forces facility. It occupies 340 square miles.

The custom-designed 3M RFID Smart Shelf System is the centerpiece of a pilot program that may be extended to other military installations after a period of evaluation.

The system is intended to substantially reduce errors and inefficiencies associated with manual tracking, retrieval, filing and file merging methods of medical records management at Fort Hood, where thousands of files may be in use at the base's six clinics during any given month.

In turn, such improvement would make a positive impact on operational efficiencies in health care delivery, the troop deployment process, and the management of medical data collection. One of the top priorities of the system is to provide virtually instant accessibility to complete medical records for soldiers and their family members requiring intensive and complex healthcare services.

"The cost-efficiency and far-reaching versatility of RFID is prompting an expanding range of innovative applications in almost all facets of society," observes Lem Amen, vice president, 3M Track and Trace Solutions. "As a leader in this emerging technology, 3M is very proud to help introduce this powerful tool to the Army."

The program to track and manage Army medical records utilizing radio frequency identification technology is being led by the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), a unit of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC).

The Army becomes the first branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to deploy this RFID system from 3M for medical records management. Three other federal government entities are using RFID systems from 3M Track and Trace Solutions for applications not requiring Smart Shelf technology.

David Erickson, 3M program manager for the Fort Hood project, said approximately 300 cabinets have been installed with "smart shelves" to accommodate the more than 150,000 medical files, whose movements are continuously monitored.

"The system is designed to provide automatic inventory monitoring and automatic error notification, and thereby essentially eliminate human compliance issues," he says.

"The problems that arise in manually managing vast numbers of medical records are not only a waste of time and money, but, more important, they can adversely affect the delivery of medical services. And on a major military installation, they can also have an impact on the timely deployment of personnel to their assignments to other parts of the world."

Erickson says 3M's Fort Hood contract covered the tasks of choosing and optimizing the best radio frequency technology for this application, developing a cost-effective system that includes shelf-based reading capabilities and specialized software tailored specifically to meet the military's processes, and the installation and training of personnel for its use and maintenance.

Sirit Inc. is providing INfinity 510 UHF tag readers for the Fort Hood RFID installation.

"This application presented a number of environmental, technological and performance challenges, and 3M has implemented several unique concepts to achieve remarkable results," says Tony Sabetti, Sirit vice president, RF Solutions.

"We are pleased that the IN 510, which was selected as the top performing reader in the ODIN technologies Reader Benchmark report, provides the reader management flexibility, read accuracy, and high tag read rates needed to meet the stringent requirements for the application."

RFID technology uses a microchip and tiny antenna implanted in a tag, which is attached to an object, in much the same way as a barcode.

A major difference, however, is that an RFID tag transmits its information to a tracking device using radio waves, and therefore no line of sight is required between the tag and the reading device. For many applications, RFID is easier to use, more accurate and more cost effective than other inventory tracking systems.

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