In a current Wallace Wason, PLLC medical malpractice case involving a Virginia hospital, we learned through the discovery process that information contained within a hospital employee’s ID tags, known as an RFID badge, may be only retained for a short period of time. While RFID evidence may be time limited in hospital malpractice claims, a malpractice attorney can place the hospital on notice to preserve this valuable evidence.

But what is RFID data, and why is it important evidence in hospital negligence cases?

RFID Technology Used In Medical Practices

RFID stands for Radio-Frequency Identification. It’s a technology that uses radio waves to identify and track objects or people. It has been used for many years in hospitals, medical facilities, outpatient surgical centers, birthing centers, and hospital operating theaters to monitor and document daily activity. It’s even used to track and record information in blood-collection centers, neighborhood dialysis clinics, and your local pharmacy.

An “RFID tag” is a small electronic chip with a tiny antenna. This tag is like a special ID card that is able to collect data. When you bring an RFID tag close to an RFID reader, it sends out radio waves. Line of sight is not necessary for RFID to operate. These radio waves power up the chip in the tag, and the chip sends back information to the reader.

How Is RFID Used In Medical Facilities?

In a hospital, doctors, nurses, and other staff members need to access different areas and rooms to provide care to patients.  To make sure everything is secure and efficient, they use RFID technology to protect unauthorized access. Those records of access are saved for some period of time, which can be useful in proving who was where when and what they were doing at the time even if the medical records do not contain that information.

RFID tags can also be used to track inventory, medications, equipment, and even conditions, such as temperature and light exposure.

RFID technology in hospitals can be used to determine locations and behaviors of employees.  It can even track if employees washed their hands (and for how long!), depending on the specific system and how it is employed by the hospital system.

Time Limited Data From RFID Tags

Although RFID tags can collect a dizzying array of information, that data is not necessarily held forever. Depending on the hospital facility, the data collected on an employee RFID may only be available for a short period of time.

Although the statutes of limitations may provide years for filing a case, computer evidence may be overwritten and lost forever in as little as half a year. Therefore, if you think you have a hospital malpractice case, you should contact an experienced malpractice attorney, like Wallace Wason, PLLC, as soon as possible, particularly if the issues in the case include the location of a particular doctor or nurse at a specific time.

Malpractice Attorneys Work to Preserve Valuable RFID Data

From what we have been told during the discovery process in our malpractice litigation, RFID data may be held as little as six months. In a case of suspected malpractice, a medical malpractice attorney can send a preservation letter or preservation notice, which is written communication sent by the malpractice legal team to the potential defendant requesting that relevant evidence be preserved. Once they are placed on notice, the hospital would have a duty to preserve this critical evidence for discovery purposes in a malpractice case to be filed after completion of the full investigation by the malpractice attorney.

Hospital Employee RFID Badges

For hospitals using RFID technology, each hospital employee, including administrative personnel, doctors, nurses, maintenance staff, cleaning crews, cafeteria staff, etc., has an RFID badge or card. When an employee needs to enter a specific room, like a patient’s room or a medication storage area, their RFID card is tracked by a sensor on the door. This entry and exit data can be critical in hospital malpractice cases to prove negligence against a doctor, hospital nurse, or a different hospital employee.

In restricted areas, when the hospital employee approaches the door, they hold their RFID card close to the sensor. If the RFID system recognizes the employee and their access permissions allow, the door unlocks, and they can enter the room. If not, they may be denied access. Regardless, the system records the access attempt, along with the time and date.

This system helps the hospital ensure that only authorized personnel can enter certain areas, like the operating room or a restricted storage area for medications. It also keeps a record of who enters and exits these areas, which can be important for security and accountability. Later, this can be critical to determine which employees were present during an incident that led to a claim of malpractice or negligence.

How does this work in a medical malpractice case, exactly? Suppose an OB-Gyn says that she was busy with a different patient in another delivery room and that was the reason why she did not respond to a nurse’s calls for help. The hospital may object to producing any other patients’ records for privacy reasons. If the doctor’s RFID badge shows she was not even in the hospital at the time, that excuse falls apart.

Equipment RFID Tags 

Additionally, in some hospitals, RFID tags are used to keep track of important medical equipment. For example, RFID tags might be attached to mobile diagnostic machines. In this way, the hospital can track maintenance and whether or not the machine was exposed to extremes of temperature, which could prove important in a malpractice case.

So, in a hospital, RFID technology helps manage access, security, and inventory of equipment and other assets. The data contained in RFID chips can prove valuable to proving a case of hospital negligence, if it is preserved for use.

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured at a hospital and are considering a lawsuit, we recommend that you commence the process as soon as possible.

Wallace Wason, PLLC offers a free, no-obligation legal consultation. Our efforts in medical malpractice cases have recovered millions for our clients. We combine exceptional legal advocacy with the personal attention you deserve. Consult the experienced attorneys at Wallace Wason, PLLC by calling (703) 638-7717 or completing our easy contact form.


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