Christine Zulehner - Titular Professor of the Innovation & Regulation in Digital Services Chair - Professeure Titulaire de la Chaire Innovation & Régulation des Services Numériques.
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TICs & Health       

Heath and RFID

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) is not new. During World War II, the Royal Air Force used it to identify airplanes. The first commercial applications appeared 20 years ago. Today we use it in our daily lives (even if we are not always aware of it) and it could be absolutely everywhere within the next few years.

What is RFID?

RFID is an automatic identification technology that can be used to provide electronic identity to an item/object. A typical RFID system consists in transponders (tags), reader(s), antennas and a host (computer to process the data). RFID readers send out radio waves to detect tags and read their data. There are many different RFID solutions which differ on parameters such as frequencies, prices, ranges, sizes, or energy consumption. This technology is said to be disruptive as it is well-suited to linking the physical and virtual world: business applications are overwhelming.

Why should we focus on RFID solutions in healthcare?

1) Healthcare: A major market for RFID applications

The number of chips sold is increasing: today, hospitals are currently one of the largest buyers of RFID technology; and today, it is estimated that more than 200 hospitals in the USA are now using radio wave-based technology. According to IDTechEx, the market for RFID tags and systems in the whole health care sector will be much bigger as it will rise rapidly from $90 million in 2006 to $2.1 billion in 2016.

2) Healthcare: A concentration of the issues related to RFID with the most accurate level.

Technical, standardization, ethical and managerial issues are very sensitive in this industry. With regards to technical issues, the environment in hospitals is often a ?hostile? one for RFID solutions: elements such as metal, heat, cold, liquid, and complex information systems make successful implementation harder. Moreover, healthcare is extremely regulated and many rules constrain the implementation of such solutions. Ethical questions are often raised with RFID but these questions become obviously crucial issues in the healthcare industry. Finally, management is also extremely sensitive as mistakes can have serious impacts for patient safety: medical errors are too costly human wise and economically.

3) Wide variety of RFID applications

Many RFID specialists claim that this technology should enable healthcare to overcome existing technological and workflow limitations. This new tool should help to improve the tracking of patients, medical personnel, drugs, and equipment, decrease medical errors, provide positive identification of patients and medications, secure the access of sensitive places in hospitals, provide safer medications to patients, and last but not the least, it can facilitate better information management.

A research to address this diffusion process

Two years ago, we launched a research to analyze factors that impact the diffusion of this technology and the effects of RFID solutions on organizations, value chains and performance within the healthcare industry. The scope of the research is wide and gathers several domain of competencies to address issues related to:

- Regulation and governance:

. Standardization process (ISO, EPC?)
. Orientation of the main regulators (EPC Global, FDA, EU, etc.)
. Evolution of the value chains
. Ethics, privacy and security issues

- Management and organization:

. Adoption, assimilation and appropriation of RFID solutions
. Impacts on the type of competencies required and activities achieved by medical professionals
. Risk assessment for RFID projects

- Performance:

. Impacts of RFID solutions on medical errors, mitigation and healthcare quality improvement
. Impacts on costs and productivity (ROI)
. Rationalization of processes

Current projects:

- DTC Project

Past publications:

- Report on the Internet of Things

- Communication at the Academy of Management

Pierre-Jean Benghozi
PREG – Ecole Polytechnique

Sylvain Bureau
PREG – Ecole Polytechnique
Assistant Professor ESCP-EAP



This post is also available in: French