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Help Us Calculate the ROI for Health-Care Asset Tracking

RFID Journal is creating an interactive tool that will help hospitals estimate the benefits of using an RFID-based real-time location system to track equipment, and we need input from health-care providers currently using the technology.
By Mark Roberti
Feb 14, 2011On Jan. 5, 2011, my mother fell on the ice outside her home and broke her ankle. While in the hospital, she suffered a stroke, so I've spent a lot of time in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities over the past month.

I can report that the care she has been receiving is first-rate, but that signs of inefficiency are evident everywhere. Equipment in my mother's hospital room, for instance, was marked with handwritten signs that said "Return to 14th Floor," and all types of assets were scattered about the hallways. I saw one of the mobile workstations that the nurses use sitting near an elevator, with a piece of paper taped to its screen indicating that the machine was broken and should be picked up by the folks that fix such things. Apparently, it hadn't been.

I'm sure the little things I noticed were just the tip of the iceberg. Hospitals are often big, bustling places that serve food, clean laundry, deliver drugs, monitor patients 24 hours a day, operate on people and so on. Having written and edited so many stories about hospital operations over the past several years, I look at things differently now whenever I am at a medical center, and I can see what an enormously complex undertaking running one must be. While most do an outstanding job, new technology will enable them to do that same job—or better—and at a lower cost.

RFID Journal's goal has always been to help companies, government agencies and other organizations employ radio frequency identification technologies to reduce costs and improve efficiencies, and hospitals have seen significant benefits from utilizing RFID-based real-time location systems (RTLS) to track mobile equipment and assets. Now, we'd like to create an industry benchmark by surveying those using RTLS solutions in hospitals and clinics, to ask them about the benefits they see, and then use this information to create a return-on-investment (ROI) calculator that other hospitals can employ to forecast their own benefits.

We did this successfully with our RFID Fashion Retail ROI Calculator, which enables apparel retailers to plug in information regarding their stores—the number of items on the sales floor, the amount of goods in the back room, their margin and so forth—and project what their ROI would be.

To do the same for hospitals, we first need to collect baseline data to inform the calculator's assumptions. If you have deployed an RTLS within a hospital setting, please help us by filling out a short survey. If you would like a copy of the calculator and report, we will send it to you if you provide an e-mail address upon completing the survey. (Feel free to use a Gmail or Yahoo address to protect the anonymity of your organization, if you prefer.) All information submitted will be kept confidential, and will only be used in aggregate form, in order to help us forecast the ROI for other hospitals.

To take the survey, please click here. I believe this effort will go a long way toward helping hospitals, like those that treated my mother, do a better job of caring for patients, while also lowering their overall costs.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.
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John MATEKA 2011-02-15 04:15:06 PM
Executive Director Supply Chain Services GHS Our biggest problem with ROI calculations in Healthcare is baseline information is rarely readily available. With equipment you can get some basic numbers however the real advantage of RTLS is idnetifying processes and practices that previously were invisable or unknown. For examle , we knew were were losing approximatly 10% of our sequental compresion pumps annually. What we didnt know was where, when, and exactly how many . Once we deployed our lost prevention portals , that info became readily available. Thus we were able to back track the information to faulty or abusive processes. IE being trown away, out with the laundry and also out our front door with the patients.
Mark Roberti 2011-02-16 07:07:56 AM
Beyond Visibility Thanks for the post. I hope you will help us by filling out our survey. I wholeheartedly agree with your comments. In fact, the cover story of our magazine this issue is entitled "Beyond Visibility" and it talks about the benefits that go beyond just knowing where an asset it, but being able to analyze data to figure out how broken processes being fixed. That said, I think we can create some industry baseline data that can tell hospitals what kinds of benefits they can expect to get from tracking equipment and that will be helpful in determining whether it makes sense to deploy and RTLS.
Patrick Sweeney 2011-02-17 03:32:20 AM
RFID Expert Healthcare Mark - First I hope your mother is recovering well. Second, many hospitals need to automate the tracking of items that are critical but inexpensive (like IV racks) they may cost $25 or $30. So they don't want to put a $60 active tag on them. But they waste a ton finding, replacing and tracking them manually. The productivity gains are well documented (see our Specimen Tracking info http://odinrfid.com/healthcare/easyspecimen ) but the costs are less so when it comes to overall assets in the hospital. So your calculator is a great idea. Everything in the hospital is life-or-death emergency so cost savings takes a back seat to speed. Because there are what I call business parasites currently used (people who do nothing but suck off the health of a company by finding, counting, or storing things - not building or creating value) there is great opportunity for a one-time order of magnitude productivity gain with RFID. Part of this will be driven by Healtchare's Holy Grail - passive RTLS that costs $1-2 per tag instead of $50-60 per tag. That's when this industry hits the stratosphere.

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