Healthcare providers reluctant to automate
|RFID technology could help healthcare providers
save lives, improve workflow efficiency and reduce the cost
of caring for patients. However a fear of job losses and the
belief that the provision of healthcare cannot be automated
will slow the deployment of potentially life saving technology.
|There is a widely
held belief that healthcare is difficult to automate
and that wireless tagging is an unacceptable intrusion
into the privacy of both the patient and the clinician.
A recent report from the UK based market research firm Wireless
Healthcare, describes a number of scenarios within which wireless
tagging could improve the safety and efficiency of clinical processes
and supporting services. It also highlights equivalent processes
within the financial services and manufacturing sectors that have
already been automated and, as a consequence, are less labour
intensive and provide the public with lower cost products and
The report contrasts the different strategies the NHS and the
fast food restaurant McDonalds have adopted to combat problems
associated with hygiene, cleanliness and the failure of staff
to adhere to basic procedures. While the UK health provider is
falling back on procedures and operating practices that date back
several decades, McDonald's is experimenting with a wireless system
that ensures staff comply with inspection procedures.
The report describes a scenario within which a tagging system
is used to ensure medical staff use a hand washing station after
attending to a patient. Such a system would help stop the spread
of an infection from one patient to another within a hospital
ward. The report also points to applications such as the use of
patient tagging to ensure appropriate medicines are prescribed
and that the correct surgical procedures are carried out.
Health workers may fear that automation will result in the deskilling
of tasks and job losses. However this report recommends a number
of strategies vendors can adopt to overcome resistance to automation
and profiles a number of vendors who have successfully positioned
their wireless products within the healthcare market.