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Why Are Hospitals Hesitant to Deploy RFID?

Posted By RFID Journal, 04.12.2010
Why is it that some hospitals are so nervous about introducing radio frequency identification technology to track their patients? Is there any evidence that RFID interferes with hospital technology? You have listed several successes in medical centers, so why are others so negative?


Dear J.K.,

That's a good question. I think the answer is complicated.

There is some evidence that RFID could theoretically interfere with hospital systems, but I have not heard of any hospitals actually experiencing such issues, so I don't believe that is the big obstacle. Rather, I think the biggest challenge is simply getting companies to change the way they do things.

There is always some risk inherent in making any changes, so hospitals need to feel there are a great deal of benefits and little risk to changing. Right now, they simply don't feel that way. One reason is a lack of standards. There are firms using a wide variety of RFID systems to track patients and other applications. If all were using the same technology, that would reduce the risk.

Another issue, I think, is capital budgets. Hospitals have been affected by the downturn, just as other organizations have. People still get sick, of course, but they tend to put off elective surgeries and visit doctors less frequently when the economy is bad. That means budgets are squeezed, and hospitals might not have the resources to deploy an RFID system.

Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, suggests that new technologies are adopted by early adopters with a compelling need. Then, when vendors create a "whole" product that does everything a customer requires in one particular market, such as health care, a growing number of people will adopt. When a market leader emerges, everyone adopts.

I think we will likely see this happen in health care.

—Mark Roberti, Editor,
RFID Journal

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