Navigating overt, covert red flags in the search for bar coding, RFID technology

Aug. 24, 2022
Here’s what to watch for while shopping around

To avert short-term buyer’s remorse and avoid long-term purchasing regrets, healthcare organizations need to be alert, aware and savvy when sourcing and evaluating bar coding and radiofrequency identification (RFID) technology. They need to be watchful for warning signs right in front of them as well as any hidden behind corporate promotional word salads and foreign concepts never even arising during the initial discussion and later contracting and negotiating phases.

More than a half-dozen executives in the automatic identification (auto ID) technology space offered their tips and tricks for healthcare organizations to take the edge off the tension of not seeing or hearing something right in front of them or even missing during the discussions.

“If your vendor doesn’t seem to have an appreciation for the complexity of your organization, they’re not your vendor partner. They should have questions – lots of questions. If a partner/vendor doesn’t ask you questions like these without prompting, you should politely decline to continue the process:

  • Why did you reach out to us?
  • What pain are you hoping to solve?
  • What would success of this project look like to you and how would you measure it?
  • What are your communication styles and preferences with vendors?
  • What would your nurses and/or users say are the biggest challenges facing them?

“Along similar lines, technology experts should bring a healthy respect to your frontline workers who will be interacting with the solution on the ground, because understanding their tasks and work environments is really the key to getting it right. If they disregard or lack respect for the work of your users, it’s hard to expect a good outcome.

“We also caution against any vendor that seems to have a single-minded insistence on a specific brand or solution from the start. If they’re pushing a product, they’re selling you something – rather than helping you solve your challenge. We also caution against any vendor that seems to have a single-minded insistence on a specific brand or solution at the beginning of the process. While a good provider will work to provide you with a best fit solution, a clear bias for a brand/product right at the beginning may demonstrate that they don’t have interest in learning your unique needs.”

Jody Costa, Vice President, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships, Barcoding Inc.

“Is the company willing to offer multiple references of other healthcare customers in the U.S. that will answer your questions? You should avoid being among their first customers.

“Does the RFID system require that you ‘print’ the RFID tags in the healthcare facility (writing data onto the tag electronically or printing human-readable information on the tag)? This can be a slow, error-prone and finicky process.

“Is the user interface (UI) dashboard easy to understand in a single session? If the UI is complex, staff will be less happy to use the system.”

Rich Leitermann, Director of Engineering, WaveMark Supply Management and Workflow Solutions, Cardinal Health

“Look at the flexibility that the vendor offers. The real solution will allow for a vendor to use RFID in some areas of the hospital, and bar-coding scanning in others. Managing the quantity of items on the shelf in a hospital will vary greatly depending on the value of the item, the workflows that can be supported and the backend systems that rely on the data being recorded. Being able to implement an affordable solution that reduces the amount of time staff spend managing supplies may just be a system that is using both RFID and barcode technology.”

John Freund, Founder and CEO, Jump Technologies

“With RFID, some overt red flags that would be easier for providers to spot would be the promise of 100% item readability, in all applications, with any type of products (or packaging), and in any environment. Today’s RFID technology and tags are robust and very technologically advanced, but certain steps need to be considered to optimize the technology. That said, the right RFID partner and its engineering team can leverage its expertise to mitigate potential obstacles and maximize system performance.

“Covert red flags are obviously harder to spot. Digging deeper into the partner history, profile, level of experience and customer base will help providers avoid some bigger pitfalls. Taking a few extra steps can save a lot of post-purchase regret down the road.”

Jason Rosemurgy, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Terso Solutions

“It is important to look for experienced vendors with proven results when evaluating RTLS technology. Many companies have recently entered the RTLS industry, but location technology is a science that should not be trusted to just anyone. Your team will want a credible vendor who can provide proof of their ability to support your needs with the proper internal infrastructure, demonstrate financial stability, and offer a product that they have successfully deployed in complex enterprise environments.

“Additionally, it’s beneficial to seek vendors who can leverage partnerships with other solution providers and are open to integrations. Throughout the search, your focus should be ensuring the best chance of success following a logical and well thought out business model and multiyear ROI tailored to your specific needs and organization.

“Your facility should also consider the long-term road map. Would you like to expand to other use cases? If so, you want to select a vendor that future-proofs your initial investment through a scalable approach that allows the infrastructure to be used for multiple solutions like asset tracking, contact tracing, patient monitoring, staff duress, etc. Collaborating with colleagues in other areas of the organization will allow multiple use cases to be leveraged in the same infrastructure.

“Lastly, be weary of the WiFi-only vendors. WiFi is great technology and has its role in RTLS, but certain use cases such as staff and patient safety should not rely solely on WiFi. The only way to guarantee clinical-grade location insights is by installing active RFID-enabled hardware. In a duress situation, you want security to locate the person in duress quickly, accurately, and be able to provide immediate assistance.”

Scott Hondros, Vice President, Professional Services, CenTrak

“Do your due diligence. Understand the benefits, costs and user-friendliness thoroughly. Identify if the benefits and costs are hard or soft? Ask questions. Make sure you get clear understandable answers. Identify and address any issues that may prevent complete compliance. Without compliance the effort will be futile.

 “IT involvement is minimal. About 0.1 [full-time equivalent] for initial setup and implementation [may be needed]. Thereafter, IT would only be involved with the organization’s network. Software is our responsibility. Hardware is handled by the manufacturer.”

James Moore, Vice President, Electronic Healthcare Systems

“Many healthcare solutions providers are experts in one use case or workflow and expanding outside of that workflow can quickly get outside of their comfort zone. Look for a provider with broad expertise that is inclusive of current and potential future needs. Ask that provider about workflows adjacent to its core solution set and gauge the response.

“This next point is not specific to a solutions provider evaluation, but we often see projects slowed or stopped because there are not enough stakeholders from the healthcare provider side involved. These solutions can be complex with different groups as users reaping the benefits, administrators supporting and maintaining, and financing the project. It’s key to have all at the table, and to have a solutions provider able to address the needs of each group.”

McLeod Williamson, Intelligent Edge RFID Solutions Specialist, Zebra Technologies