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What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

One reason more companies aren't adopting RFID as quickly as possible is that they have no idea just how inefficient they really are.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 21, 2009"If radio frequency identification is so great, why isn't everyone using it?"

That's a question I get asked more often than I'd like to admit—and there are many ways to answer it. One big reason is simply that executives are reluctant to invest in new technologies, having been burned in the past. Another is that RFID does so much that it's often difficult for businesses to get a good understanding of exactly where the benefits are today.

But as I listened to the presenters last week at our RFID in Health Care 2009 Boston event and the MIT Enterprise Forum's workshop, I realized the biggest reason companies aren't aggressively adopting radio frequency identification is simply that they don't know how inefficient they really are and, thus, how much the technology can help them.

Two presenters—Ray Lowe, Providence Health Care Systems' director of ministry support/IS operations, and Kim Carter, UMASS Memorial Medical Center's director of cardiovascular diagnostics and interventional services—said they were once opposed to deploying an RFID system. Both became believers when they saw the results.

When Lowe was first approached about installing an RFID system, he told attendees, his main concerns were that it not come out of the IT budget, and that it not add more devices to the network. But once the system was deployed, he became a believer, because it reduced the amount of time employees spent searching for equipment by an hour and a half per shift, and also reduced shrinkage, improved asset utilization and helped reduce the operating room turnaround time by approximately 50 percent.

"I didn't want [the RFID system]," said Carter, who manages purchases for UMASS, "but now I couldn't live without it. If I were offered a job and they didn't have RFID and didn't plan to get it, I wouldn't take the job."

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