Guest Column | June 18, 2009

Guest Column: Wireless Patient Tracking Can Help Halt Contagion, Including Swine Flu


By Dann Anthony Maurno, Louis Sirico, and Jill Abell,

Although it has quieted down in the U.S. media, on June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 in response to the ongoing global spread of the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. A Phase 6 designation indicates that a global pandemic is underway. Seventy-six (76) countries are reporting cases of human infection with novel H1N1 flu. The U.S. alone has nearly 50% of the world-wide confirmed cases: 17,855. The flu is spreading faster and killing more people in the U.S. than any other country.

It is time for our government to enact legislation requiring mandatory patient and caregiver tracking in hospitals and medical centers. We have a right to know if we have come in contact with a person who is contagious or if we have visited a location a contagious person recently occupied. Not only does it protect the individual, but the greater population.

As Orwellian as this sounds, the real-time location systems (RTLS) and RFID technology already used in hospitals and medical centers throughout the US can significantly reduce the spread of swine flu and other contagious diseases. Through the use of similar types of technologies that the FDA already recommends (and will likely mandate) for use in ePedigree requirements, hospitals can track patients, caregivers, equipment, and inventory to allow healthcare officials to know for certain who has, and has not, come in contact with a contagious person, and help contain epidemics.

Copyright 2009.