RFID vs. Barcoding for Specimen Tracking

GAO-GUIDE-BANNERWhen we first receive inquiries about our GAO RFID Specimen Tracking System, most laboratory professionals ask us this question:

How does RFID technology help me go beyond what I am already able to do with barcoding?
RFID is a more superior technology to barcoding for sample labeling and tracking. Barcoding is an old technology that was developed in the 1950’s and saw widespread use since the 1970’s, and ranged from linear to 2D style formats. While barcodes are an improvement over human recognition, they present obstacles for specimen tracking and management:
  • Barcodes require direct line of sight by a scanner
  • Barcodes easily get damaged and substantially affect the reading accuracy
  • Barcodes easily get dirty and substantially affect the reading accuracy
  • Barcode accuracy is lower than RFID
  • Barcodes require human interaction and verification to work fully
What these obstacles mean to laboratories:
  • Transcription errors
  • Specimen source errors
  • Wrong Patient information
  • Wrong medical procedures
  • Lost samples
  • Inability to intercept errors during the delivery period
With the introduction of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, the specimen collecting, labelling, and tracking process can become much more accurate and efficient, drastically reducing the time it takes to find a specific specimen or do an inventory count, as well as eliminating the need for humans to physical write or read labels to identify specimens.The best part is our RFID Specimen Tracking System can be integrated with existing barcode technology; this means that your lab environment can continue to use barcoding as your staff get used to the efficiencies of RFID labelling and tracking!


Each year, billions of samples are tested worldwide. Testing is a critical part of the diagnostic process, as it helps to monitor disease outbreaks and aids doctors to make patient treatment decisions. Being such a critical part of the diagnostic process, it is alarming to learn that improper specimen handling is still a leading cause for medical errors.Traditionally, specimen information is manually copied on paper forms and labels by medical staff. These forms are then attached to the specimen containers, pots, and cassettes as they are moved from the health facility through each checkpoint to pathology laboratories, research laboratories, and blood banks. This manual process of sample tracking depends greatly on human accuracy, and therefore, exposes the process to multiple potential points of error. The manual system was improved by using the barcode technologies, still not customers’ satisfaction. The result: lost, misplaced, or mislabelled specimens are becoming a concern as patient safety and lab efficiency are being compromised. With the introduction of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), any item passing through an area can be automatically scanned and information is stored; without the need for laser scanning or line of sight. This makes RFID technology a powerful new alternative for labs.How RFID is better than barcodes for Specimen Tracking:
  • RFID devices can work from a few feet to one hundred feet, without requiring the RFID reader to have a direct line of sight with the specimen’s RFID tag.
  • The read time of RFID tags is typically less than 100 milliseconds.
  • RFID readers can read a number of tags at once; this means the information of multiple specimens can be read and recorded simultaneously.
  • RFID tags are read/write devices. So if required, certain information can be written to the tag for convenient retrieval and this information is also synchronized with the central database and accessible simultaneously by all personnel in various facilities involved with diagnosing the specimen.


RFID for the Information, Electronics & Telecommunication Industries

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