This paper will address the requirements for implementing a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system for a major health care organization, Happy Healthy Systems (HHS). HHS is a health care organization consisting of four hospitals, ten clinics, a physicians’ practice, and a research facility. The facilities cover a three-state area. HHS hospitals and clinics are administered by a single set of senior managers who all report to the same board of directors. The organization has grown significantly in the past five years, adding three of the hospitals and six of the clinics within that time frame.
HHS has chosen to implement a common electronic medical record (EMR) system that will be used throughout the organization by all of the facilities under its umbrella. This EMR system is the main clinical system in use throughout the organization, except the radiology and lab systems. While the implementation of this new EMR system creates an opportunity to unify health records across the hospitals and some of the clinics, there will still be facilities utilizing different EMR systems.
As such HHS should review other technologies that can help facilitate more unified communication of critical patient information. One such enabling technology is through the implementation of RFID devices. RFID tags are a key component in the category of technology enablement known as the Internet of Things (IoT). RFID and IoT is rapidly gaining popularity through the many use cases upon which they have been applied across several industries from consumer goods, retail, transportation, healthcare and many others.
RFID tags are essentially “intelligent barcodes” that communicate to internet enabled systems to track items upon which they are attached. This technology represents an improvement over legacy barcodes which have been ubiquitous across many industry’s for the past four or five decades.
Barcodes are read-only technology and require scanning of each individual item separately at each transaction point. For example, to count items when received as inventory or upon checkout as a purchase transaction. Through RFID technology, a health care facility like HHS can see how quickly items are consumed, which healthcare worker is using them and for prescriptions, which Doctor prescribed them and for what condition. Another advantage of RFID is its ability to automate the ID capture process through the data embedded in the tags. This capture process reduces human interaction to limit input errors and increases the speed of information capture. Perret (2014). In a medical setting such as HHS, RFID technology offers several benefits such as monitoring supplies, which reduces overstocking and thus saves money. Dosage safety can be achieved through matching RFID wristbands with prescription information in the EMR linked to drug inventory and traceability back to the supplier.
In Radiology, RFID tagged x-ray vests can help locate them during Government regulatory inspections. For infection control, RFID tagged patients allow the hospital and clinics to monitor and alert who comes into contact with infectious patients. For prescription traceability from manufacturer to pharmacy, RFID can provide deeper tracking than legacy lot number tracking. RFID adds the capability for tracking expiration date and points of contact in the custody chain. Baum (2013) As with many technologies, RFID is not without issues and concerns that must be considered as part of any implementation. While the use of passive UHF RFID tags is becoming increasingly common, the development of UHF RFID has been slowed down for several reasons. The main technical reason for this is the unreliability of tags, particularly when they are in an environment other than the one for which they were designed.
Perret (2014) has also cautioned that no universal-use tag exists that is guaranteed to function in any environment. Most of the issue is centered around the “robustness of reading” of the tags, and this largely relates to the object upon which the tag is placed. Another issue is the question of cost as most use cases involve tags which are intended to be disposable. As such, the industry looks to move toward chip-less tags and other low-cost materials. In addition to these issues, Roberti (2012) has cautioned that additional risks in deploying RFID technology come in the form of choosing the “wrong technology for the business problem, the wrong systems integrator, or the right solution that does not work at the client’s facility”. At an enterprise level, additional risk to the success of an RFID project is not necessarily the technology or the integrator, but rather, change management. Since RFID projects may involve tracking supply and inventory, this means change must be considered from suppliers to receiving, to those who pull products from stock, and other employees throughout the organization.
Roberti (2012) has also advised that employees be retrained to take advantage of the data that RFID can provide. Further, change must be managed in a way that does not disrupt operations, and resources need to be identified and focused on driving change throughout the organization and ensuring that employees are doing what is necessary to leverage RFID capabilities. Additional strategies are needed to mitigate the risks and constraints of an RFID project. Once the organization has determined its RFID strategy, the CEO must create a steering committee with senior executives from all areas of the business according to Roberti (2012). Opportunities could be missed by not having representation from all areas of an organization. An additional RFID project risk is not having the right representation from executives in key departments which can contribute to the failure of an RFID initiative.
Also, the RFID strategy should be based on projects that have the greatest return on investment and further the company’s long-term growth first. The strategy must bring discipline and focus to the deployment. It can be all too easy for people within an organization to get excited by the technology and want to apply it to areas that do not add value or have a solid business case. It is not enough to use RFID as a radio bar code applied to everything within the supply chain. The first phase is to focus on achieving internal benefits across the enterprise as has been defined. The RFID strategy defined for Happy Healthy Systems addresses these concerns by defining use cases that have a defined benefit to the organization. Through monitoring supplies to reduce overstock and thus saves money.
By pursuing injection safety through matching RFID wristbands with prescription information in the EMR linked to drug inventory and traceability. Leveraging RFID tagged x-ray vests to help locate then during Government regulatory inspections. For infection control, using RFID tagged patients to allow the hospital and clinics to monitor and alert who comes into contact with infectious patients. And finally, for prescription traceability from manufacturer to pharmacy RFID to provide deeper tracking than legacy lot number tracking. This paper has identified the main business problems, and requirements of Happy Healthy Systems explained the advantages and opportunities that an RFID infrastructure can offer and proposed RFID applications for the organization. It has also defined the business and IT constraints and risks involved with deploying an RFID infrastructure and identified strategies for mitigating business and IT constraints and risks.