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RFID in Health Care 2009 Report

Approximately 100 health-care professionals gathered in Las Vegas in January to attend RFID Journal's second annual RFID in Health Care conference. View the presentations from the event.
Feb 23, 2009—Radio frequency identification can be utilized in many ways in hospital settings, from patient monitoring to asset tracking. RFID in Health Care 2009, RFID Journal's second annual conference and exhibition for health-care professionals, was held on Jan. 22 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino, in Las Vegas. Approximately 100 attendees gathered at the conference to learn how they can benefit from using the technology. Speaker presentations are now available on the event's Web site; see the final page for downloading instructions.

This conference, colocated with World Congress' Healthcare Supply Chain Management Summit, was designed to educate attendees regarding how hospitals across North America are achieving benefits from using RFID technologies to monitor patients and assets, as well as to automatically collect information and reduce medical errors. Such benefits include improving patient monitoring and safety, increasing asset utilization with real-time tracking, boosting revenue with automated billing, reducing errors by tracking medical devices and enhancing supply chain efficiencies.

During this one-day event, hospitals, health-care providers and other end users revealed how they have employed RFID and Electronic Product Code (EPC) technologies to reduce costs, streamline operational efficiencies and improve patient care. What's more, industry leaders offered insights into how to move from one-off applications to an infrastructure approach to radio frequency identification.

Mark Roberti, RFID Journal's founder and editor, outlined the different types of RFID technologies currently available, as well as applications for each. These included active, battery-assisted and passive technologies, high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF). Roberti explained how these technologies can be deployed to track various assets, and also provided an overview of EPCglobal's standards, including their relevance to the health-care industry.

Ray Lowe, director of ministry support and IS operations at Providence Health Care Systems, evaluated RFID technology for hospitals. Managing mobile assets in medical facilities can be a vast undertaking, as thousands of pieces of equipment are constantly moved around such a setting. Real-time location systems (RTLS) have been shown to be effective in meeting asset visibility challenges, but specific obstacles surround potential interference disruption and ongoing maintenance concerns with implementing RTLS. Lowe addressed how to evaluate such systems for hospital use from a technical standpoint, including applications, installation, interference and business models. Additionally, he explored how to create success criteria for RFID implementations by considering such critical factors as patient-care disruption, scalability, infrastructure costs, system reliability, ease of use, maintenance and initial operating costs.

Jerome R. Gardner, VP of special projects and consulting services at Integris Health, outlined how the Oklahoma-based health-care provider has obtained a return on investment (ROI) from its RFID deployment. Integris Health recently completed a project involving the tagging of hernia meshes at its Southwest Medical Center acute-care facility, located in Oklahoma City. Gardner shared with attendees the project's results, including how it estimated an ROI of more than $300,000 due to RFID's ability to reduce shrinkage and ensure high-value items don't expire before use (see Integris' Journey to RFID).

Scott Sullivan, business manager at the University of California's San Diego Medical Center (UCSD), presented a case study revealing how the medical center achieved an ROI with an active RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS). By implementing the RTLS, the San Diego Medical Center lowered its rental costs for mobile medical equipment and improved its overall device and maintenance processes. UCSD reduced the amount of time employees spent searching for equipment, and also minimized equipment theft and loss. Sullivan discussed the center's goals for improving asset management, and how it solved a broad range of process and workflow problems with the technology, including how it managed equipment needs at its Incident Command Center during San Diego's recent fires. (See UCSD Medical Center Expands Its RFID Deployment.)
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