RFID industry veteran, Brad Sokol, will be introducing "A Roadmap to Medical Tool Pedigree" tomorrow at the RFID Applications conference in Washington DC. Targeting things like surgical instruments, disposables and other items used in the delivery of care, Sokol aims to track (dare we say "automate") the workflow around sterilization, use and disposal to minimize hospital acquired infections. (You can read the press release here.)

The main vehicle for infection analysis will be an interoperable, universal medical device nomenclature and near real-time error reporting system. This system will provide the channel necessary to trace back (Pedigree) the source of infection (directly or indirectly) to the specific medical tool(s) used in a healthcare infection event. These systems then need to be incorporated into the National Healthcare Interoperability Model.

Mr. Sokol has explored and integrated three theoretical solutions (Tracking medical objects, Sterilization process, and Error-Infection reporting process) to design a closed (micro-hospital) and open loop (macro- improved medical error/ infection reporting system) pedigree model for medical devices. He has gathered data to help demonstrate that medical devices, instrumentation and supplies, directly and indirectly cause 13,000 to 26,000 mortalities annually. These mortalities alone are responsible for adding an additional cost of 3.2 - 6.4 billion dollars to the US healthcare system a year. These solutions could be readied for development within a year and product profitability may be technologically achieved within the next 3 years.

Now that is a reason for unique identifiers. Sokol targets the "medical devices" that don't carry serial numbers. The challenge remains to determine the best methods to identify and track these items - I'm sure Sokol has that all figured out; we'll just have to wait until tomorrow.

Pictured right are sample SAW RFID tags that could be used to identify and track surgical instruments, and other small, hard to label items.