RFID comes of age

Healthcare organizations have been taking a good look at radio frequency identification for, I would guess, a good decade or more now. Until recently, most dismissed the RFID as being far too expensive for perennially cash-strapped hospitals. That seems to be changing.

Whether it's Moore's Law at work--computer chips double in power and the price comes down by half every 18 months--or simply the maturing of the technology to the point that it's easy to implement and use, I'm seeing a huge upswing in adoption of RFID in healthcare settings. I don't have any hard data at hand, but I'm reasonably comfortable with the the evidence I see.

Last week we learned that federal officials are interested in deploying RFID and a real-time location system to track and find patients at the National Naval Medical Center, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and Suburban Hospital, all in Bethesda, MD, should a disaster strike the DC-Metro area. It's not an official contract solicitation yet, but the government is seeking ideas as part of a five-year-old partnership for emergency preparedness.

You can chalk this one up to homeland security, and perhaps government largesse, but regular readers of FierceMobileHealthcare know that many private hospitals are taking a close look at RFID. One of the latest deployments comes from St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart, IN, some 30 miles outside Chicago, which recently installed RFID to track surgical implements.

We've reported quite a bit of late on how RFID vendors have adapted their tags to work in sterile environments such as operating suites, but the earliest implementations tended to be in major academic medical centers. When small, not-for-profit community hospitals start getting in the game, you can be reasonably sure you have a trend. - Neil