RFID Paves Way for Convenience and Security for the Smart User
Apr 25, 2016
The concept of Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining prominence across verticals with healthcare in the forefront. So, how is the emergence of IoT changing the business landscape in the healthcare industry and how is radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology benefitting from this trend? It is understood that healthcare spending has always been ahead of GDP with greater percentage of aging population, especially in developed economies, with greater life expectancy rate as well. We at Frost & Sullivan believe that the adoption rate will vary regionally but is expected to eventually gain prominence.
With Wi-Fi becoming ubiquitous, technologies and products such as RFID, smartphones, and Bluetooth low energy (BLE) are seen to be increasingly deployed in hospital environments. Resulting technology convergence is seen as a key driver enabling enhanced customer convenience and security, which is increasingly becoming the Holy Grail for caregivers. Applications such as wayfinding, nurse call, and room entry are expected to witness considerable traction in the next three years, paving way for smart hospitals.
Operational benefits through RFID adoption have been a major driver in the growth of this market across healthcare applications. ROI and benefits of RFID go beyond efficient supply chains and effective management such as patient safety and process efficiency. Tagging high value assets is increasingly becoming an essential part of hospitals. Focus on improving process flow, utilization, and optimization of procurement processes is expected to enhance the demand for RFID. Additionally, the technology enables effective management of customers and provides effective customer service.
Healthcare & pharmaceutical applications utilizes both passive and active technology. Applications such as patient monitoring and warehouse management use passive technology whilst applications that require constant feedback use active technology or real time location systems (RTLS). Pricing was a deterrent for RFID adoption in healthcare, as budget was a major constraint for caregivers. Pricing of RFID hardware and middleware has witnessed considerable decline over the years and this trend is expected to continue before pricing stabilizes.
That said, certain factors inhibit the adoption levels of the technology such as lack of budgets on the caregiver front and awareness levels about the technology by staff potentially using it. Unclear return on investments (ROI) hampers any investment made by caregiver organizations toward new technology. Most organizations are opting for a wait and watch policy and delaying the deployment of newer technologies.
Furthermore, the challenge for RTLS adoption is ignorance of the system or unwillingness to utilize it. This may be particularly true for care staff and other employees who may avoid using the system for fear of movement monitoring. Additional issues include poor staff training or access methods, particularly if the RTLS system is tied into PHI-bearing applications for which access may be restricted. The market drivers outweigh the restraining factors and with emergence of IoT, caregivers have to be in the front of the adoption cycle to remain competitive. Asset and personnel tracking continue to be primary applications from an RFID perspective. However, changing trends and the IoT landscape are expected to shift focus to emerging applications mentioned.
The future of caregiving will witness hardware vendors (RFID tags, RFID readers, and BLE beacons), middleware/platform vendors, and mobile app developers collaborating to cater to the unique demands of their customers. Hence, caregiving will not only witness technology convergence but also witness the rise of new business models.