Improving the Quality and Cost of Healthcare Delivery

The Potential of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology

by Anna-Marie Vilamovska

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This study investigates whether an upcoming class of health information technology (HIT) can be used to address currently outstanding issues in the quality and cost of healthcare delivery. Expert interviews and a literature review were used to describe the 2009 universe of in- and outpatient healthcare RFID applications and to identify those applications expected to have the largest positive impact on the quality and cost-effectiveness of healthcare delivery over the next five to ten years. Next, case studies of actual RFID implementations across seven hospital sites in the U.S. and Europe were conducted to gain an understanding of how each leading RFID application type creates value, what aspects of care it impacts, and what the critical factors driving the promising RFID’s organizational benefits and costs are. As part of this work, an original set of healthcare RFID cost-benefit evaluation tools was developed and tested. The study’s findings indicate that in contrast to other types of HIT, the majority of benefits associated with successful RFID implementation are directly related to money saved (occurring as direct capital and operational cost savings), and that select RFID applications can substantially impact both the cost (e.g., efficiency) and the quality (e.g., timeliness, capacity for continuous improvement) of care delivery. Critical challenges for RFID adoption are described.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Why Examine RFID's Potential Role in Healthcare Delivery

  • Chapter Two

    RFID in Healthcare: Uses, Evidence on Impacts, Promising Applications

  • Chapter Three

    Defining Promising RFID's Range of Impacts and Creating Enterprise-Level Cost-Benefit Evaluation Structures

  • Chapter Four

    Experienced Impacts: Case Studies of Advanced Market-Ready RFID Applications in the Hospital Setting

  • Chapter Five

    Summary of Results, Study Conclusions and Policy Implications

  • Appendix 1

    Healthcare RFID technology, brief reader

  • Appendix 2

    References for systematic literature review on RFID in healthcare

  • Appendix 3

    Detailed methodology and additional results of systematic literature review

  • Appendix 4

    Examples of existing classifications of healthcare RFID

  • Appendix 5

    Key RFID expert and stakeholder interview respondents

  • Appendix 6

    Protocol for semi-structured expert interviews

  • Appendix 7

    Impact measures for portable asset, operating floor and medical floor management RFID applications

  • Appendix 8

    Adaptive structuration theory and healthcare RFID’s organizational value

  • Appendix 9

    Methodology for multiple case study design

  • Appendix 10

    Detailed case study presentations

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in May 2010 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Richard Hillestad (Chair), Evi Hatziandreu, and Robin Meili.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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