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6 Ways to Get Your RFID Project Approved

These popular strategies, gleaned from people involved in successful deployments, will help you garner support and secure funding.
By Jill Gambon
Apr 01, 2010PinnacleHealth, a health-care system in central Pennsylvania, had an ongoing problem: Wheelchairs in its Harrisburg Hospital were never where they were supposed to be. Not only did this mean patients often had lengthy waits before being transported, but there was also an unfortunate ripple effect: Discharges were delayed, rooms couldn't be cleaned promptly and readied for incoming patients, and security guards, nurses and other employees frequently had to stop what they were doing to search for an available wheelchair.

George Morley, the organization's director of biomedical engineering, saw a way to solve the problem. Harrisburg Hospital was using an RFID-based real-time locating system (RTLS) from Radianse to track patients, and Morley thought it could be expanded to track wheelchairs, as well as IV pumps, crash carts, stethoscopes and other critical equipment. But despite the hospital's successful deployment of the patient-tracking system, Morley's initial funding request was turned down. Hospital management wasn't convinced the investment was worthwhile. "Some people thought RFID was just a toy," Morley says.

Photo: iStockphoto
Undeterred, he spent the next several months continuing to accumulate data on how much money and time was being lost due to missing equipment. He also spent hours talking to other staff members and listening to their stories on the subject. Then, armed with a compelling business case, he presented his proposal to hospital executives, describing the problems and explaining the potential benefits of tagging and tracking medical gear. This time, he secured funding for the project.

The RTLS, deployed in 2006, delivered a return on investment within a year. Since then, PinnacleHealth has expanded the system, which now tracks more than 6,000 assets—everything from ultrasound transducers to vacuum cleaners—at the organization's Harrisburg and Community General hospitals. The asset-tracking system is proving its worth, Morley says. In the first year alone, PinnacleHealth saved $900,000 on equipment costs, because the number of items that disappeared decreased dramatically. In addition, productivity has improved, because staff members no longer waste time hunting for wheelchairs, stethoscopes and other items.

Morley's experience is not unusual. RFID Journal often hears from frustrated end users working in a wide range of industries who have a business problem they know RFID can solve. Yet, they can't get their projects green-lighted by upper management. Sometimes they're told the company can't afford to fund the project. Others are rebuffed by concerns that deploying a new technology is too risky. And many suspect that those in charge just don't want to disturb the status quo or risk their jobs on a project that might not work. "It only takes one person in the chain of command to say no to kill a project," says one executive at a major consumer packaged goods company whose RFID proposals have met with resistance.

But clearly, given the number of RFID projects that are going forward, some end users who lobby for change are successful. To learn how they overcame the obstacles that threatened to thwart approval of their RFID pitches—whether for a pilot project or expansion of a system already in place—we spoke with more than a dozen people involved with successful RFID projects, including end users, RFID systems integrators, consultants and technology vendors. While every organization is unique, we found there are some common strategies for marshaling support and securing funds for RFID deployments.
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