RFID in Health Care 2009—Boston Report

By Admin

More than 100 health-care professionals gathered in Boston last month to attend RFID Journal's third RFID in Health Care conference. View the presentations from the event.

Radio frequency identification has a variety of uses in hospital settings, from asset tracking to patient monitoring. RFID in Health Care 2009—Boston, RFID Journal's third conference and exhibition for health-care professionals, was held on Sept. 17 at The Westin Waltham-Boston, in Waltham, Mass. More than 100 attendees gathered at the conference to learn how they can benefit from using the technology, and speaker presentations are now available (see the final page for downloading instructions).

This conference 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 reduce medical errors and collect information automatically. Such benefits include increasing asset utilization with real-time tracking, reducing errors by tracking medical devices, improving patient monitoring and safety, enhancing supply chain efficiencies and boosting revenue with automated billing.

During this one-day event, health-care providers, hospitals 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.

Main Conference Sessions

Mark Roberti, RFID Journal's founder and editor, opened the conference with a presentation regarding the basics of RFID technology for health-care professionals. This session was designed to help attendees understand the various types of RFID technologies, as well as applications for each, and covered active, battery-assisted and passive technologies, both high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF). Roberti explained how each can be deployed to track various assets, and also offered a brief overview of EPCglobal's standards, including their relevance to the health-care industry.

Kim Carter, director of cardiovascular diagnostics and interventional services at the UMASS Memorial Medical Center—one of the largest acute-care hospitals in the northeastern United States—explained how the facility is employing RFID to control the costs of high-value implantable medical supplies, improve patient safety and adhere to regulatory compliance (see UMass Med Center Finds Big Savings Through Tagging and What You Don't Know Can Hurt You). UMass Memorial's Cardiac Cath Lab has an inventory valuation of more than $2 million to support the more than 7,000 procedures its doctors perform annually. Prior to the RFID deployment, it was a monumental task for the facility to control costs, ensure the proper products were available and manage expiration dates. Carter outlined how UMass has utilized RFID to reduce inventory costs by $300,000, manage bulk-buy opportunities, reduce expiring products and optimize product mix to support physician preferences and improve clinical staff workflow.

Ed Bortone, the Lahey Clinic Medical Center's director of materials services and security, told attendees how Lahey employs RFID in its ambulatory care center, which treats approximately 3,000 patients each day (see The Lahey Clinic's RFID Remedy). Hundreds more receive top-quality care in the hospital's 295-bed hospital, 24-hour emergency department and trauma center. The center, one of the top medical facilities in the Boston area, has more than 1,500 pieces of moveable medical equipment. In this session, Bortone discussed how Lahey pioneered the use of RFID for hospital asset tracking, and how it has since moved on to additional applications.

Ray Lowe, Providence Health Care Systems' director of ministry support and IS operations, offered a presentation regarding real-time location systems (RTLS) in hospital settings. Lowe discussed the effectiveness of RTLS in meeting resource visibility challenges in health care and other fields, as well as the specific challenges the technology presents related to potential interference disruption and ongoing maintenance concerns. Attendees learned how to invest in RFID, as well as how to create success criteria for an RFID hospital implementation and evaluate such a system from a technical standpoint (see What You Don't Know Can Hurt You).

In addition, Lowe took part in a panel moderated by RFID Journal's Roberti regarding RFID in the health-care industry. The panel also featured Pankaj Sood, founder and manager of McMaster University's RFID Applications Lab. Health-care facilities are faced with many choices when it comes to implementing an RFID asset-tracking system, including passive HF and UHF, active 455 MHz, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and ultra-wideband (UWB) systems, as well as ultrasound technology. In this session, Lowe and Sood discussed key issues that health-care providers need to understand when making such choices.

Ralph Herkert, a senior research engineer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, explored the effects of RFID on medical devices. Commonly encountered electromagnetic (EM) environments have been found to affect the performance of some implantable medical devices. Such devices include cardiac pulse generators, neurostimulators, drug infusion pumps, and glucose and cardiac monitors. Adverse EM environmental effects (E3) include the undesired responses of these devices to the environments in which they must function. The growing use of RFID in public areas requires that the same attention be given to E3 testing. Herkert offered a brief history of E3 testing for implantable medical devices, a discussion of recent publications indicating the need for establishing RFID testing protocols for medical devices, and an update on a health-care initiative (HCI) to develop testing protocols (see Georgia Tech Researchers Test RFID's Effects on Implanted Medical Devices).

Tom Hamelin, director of perioperative services at the University of California's San Diego Medical Center, and Scott Sullivan, the center's business manager, outlined how the center—which initially lowered its rental costs for mobile medical equipment, and improved its overall equipment and maintenance processes, by implementing an RTLS—has gone beyond asset tracking to develop departmental applications. These include enterprise workflow with medical instrumentation tray tracking across multiple campuses (UCSD Medical Center Expands Its RFID Deployment). The speakers discussed the San Diego Medical Center's original asset-management goals, how it solved a range of process and workflow issues with RFID—including how it managed the equipment used at its Incident Command Center during a recent San Diego fire—and how the center reduced inventory requirements and enhanced revenue impact by managing millions of dollars' worth of instrumentation using a sterilizable RTLS tag.

Scott Wilson, Medtronic's director of sales operations, outlined the use of RFID at the medical technology firm's Spinal and Biologics division, which offers products designed to treat spinal disorders, aid fusion surgeries and distribute human tissue. These products are heavily regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Joint Commission and the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Medtronic is required to know the location of its entire field inventory, including items consigned to hospitals. In this session, Wilson explained how the firm has streamlined a manually intensive temperature and inventory reconciliation process with an RFID-enabled cabinet in which each product is separately tagged using Gen 2 RFID technology.

Finally, Sam Itani, VP of San Joaquin Community Hospital (part of the Adventist Health System) told attendees how his facility recently deployed an enterprise-wide real-time location system covering 350,000 square feet and involving more than 1,300 assets. The system included equipment asset tags and temperature-monitoring tags. Itani revealed how the hospital is employing RTLS technology as a solution to budget pressures, rather than as an additional cost, and how it worked with its vendor during the installation process to make sure the solution provided a financially significant return on investment.

In addition, attendees at RFID in Health Care 2009—Boston were invited to attend a special meeting of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. The meeting addressed a number of issues related to real-time locating systems utilizing 455 MHz, Wi-Fi, ZigBee and UWB frequencies. Such issues included how data from these different systems is being integrated to improve overall enterprise visibility, operational and management issues and strategies to address competing applications for common wireless infrastructure and unlicensed frequencies, and tools that can help manage in-building wireless applications using various frequencies and protocols. Speakers at the meeting included Rick Hampton, Partners HealthCare System's wireless communications manager; Matt Perkins, CTO of Awarepoint; and Antti Korhonen, Ekahau's president and CEO.

To read Mark Roberti's reflections on the event, click here.

Accessing Conference Presentations:

Several speakers and panelists at RFID in Health Care 2009—Boston have granted permission to provide RFID Journal's readers with the PowerPoint presentations from their sessions, which are linked below. Blue titles link to presentations in PDF format. Click each title to open the PDF in a new tab or window, or right-click (chose "Save as") to download and view the files from your computer.

Note: Not all speakers have opted to allow their materials to be posted. Speakers own the copyrights to these presentations, and no material should be used without their permission. As more presentations become available, they will be added as well. Due to the large sizes of some files, it may take a minute or two to download each PDF.


Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009: MIT Enterprise Forum

RTLS in Health Care: Five Critical Criteria For Success—Matt Perkins • Awarepoint [ Video ]

RTLS in Health Care: Understanding Total Cost of Ownership—Antti Korhonen • Ekahau[ Video ]

The Benefits of Using an RTLS at the University of Kentucky Medical Center—Chris Petter • University of Kentucky Medical Center [ Video ]

Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009: RFID in Health Care 2009

8:30 AMRFID Basics for Health-Care Professionals—Mark Roberti • RFID Journal [ Video ]

10:00 AMLahey Clinic Expands Use of RFID Across Its Entire Facility—Ed Bortone • Lahey Clinic Medical Center [ Video ]

11:15 AMEvaluating Real-Time Location Systems and Creating Success Criteria From a Technical Standpoint—Ray Lowe • Providence Health Care Systems [ Video ]

2:15 PMThe Effects of RFID on Medical Devices—Ralph Herkert, PE • Georgia Tech [ Video ]

3:30 PMBeyond Asset Tracking: How UCSD Medical Center Achieved an ROI With an Active RFID Real-Time Location System—Tom Hamelin, Scott Sullivan • University of California, San Diego Medical Center [ Video ]

5:00 PMSuccessful Deployment of RTLS in Health Care: What to Demand in a Cooperative Vendor Partnership to Assure Success—Sam Itani • San Joaquin Community Hospital [ Video ]

The next RFID in Health Care event will take place on Jan. 28, 2010, at the Fairmont Hotel in Dallas, Texas. Visit RFID Journal's events page for information regarding upcoming events.