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RFID Tagging of Newborn Babies in Hospitals to Avoid “Switched at Birth”

  • Mahesh Tiwari
  • May 04, 2023
  • RFID
RFID baby tagging

India film industry has produced enough movies to tell you how important it is to keep track of newborn babies and to avoid “switched at birth”. So many Indian movies such as ‘Sita and Gita’ (1972), ‘Judwa’ (1997) and the famous ‘Midnight’s Children’ (2012) which is based on Indian author Salman Rushdie’s novel of the same name. The lives of Saleem Sinai and Shiva was changed forever. Saleem, meant for poverty, lives in a bunglow while Shiva, the one meant for fortune, grows up on the streets. Even though these stories are few decades old, such stories still come to light in India which recently surpasses China to become the most populous nation in the world (18% of the world population) with 1.4B people living here.

In 2022, two infants were switched at birth at a Jaipur (Rajsthan) clinic, which were reconciled later on. Another story is from Indian state of Assam where a Hindu and a Muslim couples got their children mixed up by the nurse in 2015 and ended up bringing them up in separate homes and decided it’s not right to interchange kids two years later.

This is 2023 and various technologies are available to prevent something like this, by mistake or intentionally, and you won’t have to raise ‘someone else’s child’. Use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is one such solution amongst countless others.

The Government Kilpauk Medical College (KMC) in Chennai (India) is starting an initiative to tag newborn babies with RFID smart bands/tags to prevent theft and mix up which is great initiative, I say.

What is an RFID tag?

Radio Frequency Identification is a wireless technology that uses an RFID tag (an antenna is also integrated) and an RFID reader to communicate through radio frequency signals. An RFID tag is a small device that can be attached to things or individuals we want to identify, track or monitor. It can be encoded with necessary data and when it comes in the range of an RFID reader, it can transmit that data to the reader and the RFID reader will decode it for the end user, using an RF system/computer.

The main advantage of an RFID tag is that it doesn’t have to be in a direct line of sight with the RFID reader.

RFID tags are most frequently used in retail business (the largest amongst the RFID users) to identify and track assets and maintain an accurate inventory.

RFID baby tagging to prevent ‘switched at birth’

RFID tagging of newborn babies can help prevent babies from being switched at birth by providing 24/7 security and to ensure some rest for worried mothers at hospitals.

An RFID tag is placed around the ankle of the infant, just after the birth of a new baby and it is matched to the RFID tag applied to the wrist of the mother. It is easy to mistake a new-born child’s identity and this will help to prevent that.

Additionally, using RFID technology, baby tagging systems can check the unauthorized removal of a newborn from maternity and pediatric wards. If an infant is moved beyond a defined ‘safe area’, the system can automatically activate an alarm, notify staff, lock a door or turn on a camera as well.

Most units follow a RFID technology-based system that uses identification- smartbands that match the mother to the newborn, as well as one support partner. Any time a nurse or other staff member leaves the room with the baby, they must first confirm that the bands match. Upon returning the baby, the process is repeated to ensure that the baby is placed with the right parents.

Apart from that, RFID technology also helps with wireless, remote identification of infants in a sea of newborns at a hospital or maternity ward. The Nurses don’t have to pick every baby up, sometimes waking one up, and check some serial number to identify one from another.

Use of technology can solve many such trivial yet significant problems and such issues do come up even in this technological age. Raising someone else’s child, due to a mistake by an individual, only fits movies and tv-shows and it finds no place in real life. Most of the developing nations still need to ramp up their technological infrastructure in healthcare and RFID can be a cost-effective and efficient tool to solve so many trivial problems.

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  • Created on May 04, 2023
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