RFID for Healthcare

RFID IN HEALTHCARE- when is it going to become the norm?

April 07, 2011

Over this last month, the following things have happened at our facility:
    1.  An orthopedic physician requested that we start using a new product that makes total knee replacements easier, faster and safer for the patient.
    2.  One of our anesthesiologists determined that he wanted us to start using a new pain pump that would provide better management of pain and quicker recoveries.
    3.  A heart heart surgeon requested that we start doing an ablation procedure inside the heart that will stop atrial fibrilation and improve patient outcomes.

What all these things have in common are that they all make patient care better.  Better outcomes, better options, faster healing, less pain and all make for a safer patient.  They also have in common that these also are very expensive procedures to get started, through equipment and supplies and the hospital typically doesn't see any payback for them in reimbursement.

A hospital typically will pay $20k to $70k for a flexible scope, yes like those used in a colonoscopy.   A new MRI can cost $3m or more.  It is not uncommon to have a dressing put on your surgical incision that cost $28 each and are about the size of a band-aid.  Why do we pay so much for these things?  Because they save lives.

So why won't we spend capital on RFID/RTLS technology that will also save lives?  The answer is that it is hard to let go of the money that doesn't make you money.   What about the money that it doesn't cost you?  For that question to make sense you really have to realize what it is like to lose $125,000 worth of equipment over 3 years.  And then have to replace it.  That happened to us and I bet it happens to more facilities then you would expect. 

We have all heard that it takes money to make money.  It also takes money to lose money.  Lose a $3000 piece of equipment, or not necessarily lose it, but not be able to find it, then figure out how much money it cost you to lose that piece of equipment.  Not just in rental costs, or replacement costs but what about the cost of patient care?  When you are not able to find a PCA pump because you have 20 somewhere in the building and can't find one, what is the cost for the patient's suffering from pain.

The true costs will become obvious soon.  When the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems or HCAHPS as it is known, goes full bore, the true cost of not doing a really, really good job will come to light.  When you are paid based on your performance, these details like finding necessary equipment when needed, will become more important to the patients, and the providers.  It will be extrememly valuable to those that are on board  and very expensive to those who are not.

I hope you are getting on board.



Gregg, Interesting comments and glad you are sharing your views and hopefully other healthcare facilities are listening. Another issue you are probably aware of is preventive maintenance. I have been in several facilities where they found the medical equipment they needed but it was in disrepair. Better tracking of equipment will allow preventive maintenance to happen before the equipment breaks down.
Posted on: 4/8/2011 by: David Frenkel


Gregg Stepp

Director of Supply Chain Operations

Texoma Medical Center


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Are you using RFID/RTLS in the healthcare arena? If not, why not? If you are in healthcare and have problems locating equipment when needed, I hope you will come by during my presentation. On April 13th at 2:20 pm, I will be discussing how our facility, being a relatively small facility, deployed an enterprise wide RFID/RTLS system and had it pay for its self in less than a year. We have also installed temperature tracking to remotely monitor and respond to nourishment and medication refrigerators. This has been a huge success at TMC and a true nursing staff satisfier. We did this with limited capital and under the pressure of reduced staffing. Not to mention the building of a new hospital. Please come with questions. If any of you have been fortunate/unfortunate enough to hear me speak about RFID/RTLS, you know that this is a passion of mine and I can talk all day, given the opportunity. Gregg