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Memorial Sloan-Kettering Is "RFID-Ready"

When the renowned cancer center deployed an asset-tracking system, it took an enterprise approach, paving the way for other applications.
By Bob Violino
Jan 30, 2012Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), in New York City, is a pioneer in cancer care and research—and the renowned institution also considers itself a pioneer in radio frequency identification technology in the health-care sector. In 2006, the organization invested in RFID to track mobile laboratory devices and other medical products purchased under a grant, for auditing purposes. But MSKCC had the foresight to plan to leverage the RFID infrastructure for other use cases as well, including the tracking of patients and employees, to improve efficiencies.

Prior to deploying RFID, MSKCC had been using a combination of manual processes and bar-code systems for inventory management. But that solution was limited to line-of-site applications, required significant human power and provided limited capability as a broad solution for the organization, says Paul Frisch, MSKCC's chief of biomedical physics and engineering. "The primary driver for looking at RFID [initially]," he states, "was the intuitive understanding that this technology could drive the inventory and supply-chain management and finances."



After the asset-tracking solution provided a return on investment, MSKCC declared its environment to be "RFID-ready." That has enabled the organization to consider applying RFID to areas such as measuring operational metrics, measuring and establishing institutional workflows, and insuring patient safety.

Team Approach
To help plan how RFID could best be used at the hospital, MSKCC created a multi-disciplinary team comprising individuals from its biomedical engineering, IT, medical (physicians and nurses) and administration departments. "As this was a new technology at the time in health care," Frisch explains, "the technical teams [biomedical engineering and IT] were tasked with identifying and understanding the underlying technologies, and how they might fit into a health-care operation." The clinical groups focused on how the technology might eventually have an impact on patient care and clinician workflow, he adds, and the administration provided the resources necessary to promote the new technology within the institution.

In deploying RFID, MSKCC wanted to capitalize on its existing wireless infrastructure, based on the 802.11 specifications, from Cisco Systems. It supported the hospital's Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony system, medical devices and computer workstations. The biomedical engineering and IT groups reviewed RFID providers, assessing such factors as operational capabilities, technical specifications, fit with the existing infrastructure and cost. The team decided to launch a pilot program with technology provider AeroScout, to ensure system functionality and capability within the hospital's environment.
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