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What Could Be in Health Care

Many hospitals are using RFID for one application or another, but no one has yet put it all together.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 10, 2012Last week, RFID Journal hosted its RFID in Health Care 2012 conference and exhibition, which was held in Boston, Mass. As I listened to the presenters, I was extremely impressed. Each speaker revealed how radio frequency identification was delivering benefits to his or her hospital within a specific area. But it made me think about what could be. Imagine if a facility deployed RFID within every area of its operations, rather than just one or two.

Todd Pawlicki, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, and the director of the school's Department of Radiation Medicine and Applied Sciences, described how the university's Moores Cancer Center is employing EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to track the amount of time that each patient awaits radiation treatment, and to verify that the correct equipment is being utilized. The solution has enabled the center to ensure patient safety and reduce waiting times (see Oncology Clinic Gains Efficiency, Safety With RFID).

Jay Adams, an IT enterprise architect at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, explained how his hospital is using an RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) to track assets. The technology eliminated the loss of telemetry devices, reduced the amount of labor associated with monitoring the temperatures of refrigerators storing pharmaceuticals and tissue samples, and lowered the cost of replacing lost or missing equipment from $70,000 annually down to $10,000. Adams said the hospital was using 700 pumps, but was able to reduce that number down to 460, thanks to the RTLS. Each pump is worth approximately $6,500, for a potential capital-expenditure reduction of $1.56 million.

Robert M. Sheridan, the director of interventional radiology at Massachusetts General Hospital's Department of Imaging, told attendees that an RFID-enabled inventory-management system enabled the facility to capture an additional $2.1 million in charges over the course of a year that would not have been recorded without the RFID system, thereby resulting in $1 million in additional reimbursements from insurance companies. The system delivered a 400 percent return on investment.

Diane Hubisz, the operations director at Tufts Medical Center's CardioVascular Center, said her 415-bed teaching hospital, in Boston, has saved $1.5 million over two years on stents, angioplasty balloons and other implantable devices, based on information provided by an RFID inventory-management system for its catheterization lab.

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