Healthcare Professionals Sound off on RFID for Asset Protection and Patient Tracking

"During the next decade, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology will surpass bar code technology as the choice for tracking assets and patients in health care. Do you agree or disagree?"


Robert Tuch

Senior Analyst

Computer Technology Associates, Rockville, Md.

"RFID technology is still in its infancy, but will become more and more important as the miniaturization of electronics continues and the products become cheaper to employ and use. The technology can allow constant monitoring of conditions or vital signs, which may eliminate the need for expensive monitoring equipment. RFID technology also would be advantageous in an operating room, where all equipment and sponges could be 'tagged' and tracked during procedures."

Andy Ganti

Senior Consultant

GE Healthcare, Milwaukee

"Like many other technological applications in health care, cost is the main barrier besides knowledge dissemination. Hospitals are not usually the trendsetters for a variety of reasons. As other industries use more RFID technologies, costs will come down and more hospitals will use it. As more peers use it, others will follow the trends."

John Wade

Vice President/CIO

Saint Luke's Health System, Lee's Summit, Mo.

"While RFID is an emerging technology, it provides the health care industry a unique ability to leapfrog the traditional bar coding of today with a more efficient and robust technology. While the cost equation is difficult to justify today, if the traditional 'technology cost curve' continues, use of RFID at the patient level will be affordable within three to five years."

Phil Englert

Asst. V.P., Technology Operations

Catholic Health Initiatives, Erlanger, Ken.

"RFID will absolutely replace bar coding as the tracking methodology of choice in the next 10 years. The driver will be the gain in accuracy and employee efficiency. RFID tracking is passive and can be accomplished at multiple treatment points, while having a positive impact on workflow by eliminating the need to stop and scan."


Martin Jensen

Project Manager

The Frontline Group, Tulsa, Okla.

"Implantable chips are a threat to real patient identification issues. Privacy concerns about improper access to data or the revision of data spills over into legitimate discussions about universal identifiers. As a person actively involved in health information technology standards development, I cringe whenever RFID technologies make the news."

Stella Wright

Medical Records Director

Jefferson Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center, Louisville, Ky.

"Using RFID for tracking assets is OK, but tracking people is a violation of a person's rights. Using RFID bracelets during a hospital stay may be acceptable, but implantation is not until very strict laws guaranteeing a person's privacy are enacted."

William Heaslip

Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Bay Pines, Fla.

"I believe each technology will serve an important purpose in the future of health care. However, bar codes will remain cheaper and will be the more attractive alternative for the next 10 years."

Jon Dennis, M.D.

CentraCare Clinic, St. Cloud, Minn.

"Active RFID technology seems to have too wide of a detection area to be specific. Even if the sensitivity of the receiver is adjusted, there still could be a problem with administering medications and clearly identifying the correct drug with a whole tray of different drugs nearby. The technology seems to best lend itself to identifying inventory or larger groups of items. Passive RFID technology may be better for close proximity identification needs, but I really am just raising questions as I don't know the technology well."