Picture this: A hospital acquired new equipment that could tailor asthma medication to each patient’s needs. The marketing team wanted to contact all the hospital’s patients who had asthma. Hospital administration expected the new service to be quite profitable.
However, most hospital patients had been treated for other conditions, not for asthma. The hospital’s electronic records only tracked the treatments the patients received, not other conditions being handled outside the hospital. Many patients’ asthma was noted only on paper documents filled out during admission.
To build a list of asthmatic patients, the marketing team would have to search by hand through every patient’s paper file, to see if they had checked the “asthma” box. Given the number of hours needed to review each and every paper record, the cost to identify prospective patients was roughly the same as the cost of the hospital’s new equipment, deferring ROI far into the future.
This is just one example of how unstructured data (data found only on paper, or in various incompatible databases) locks up information that could otherwise contribute to the bottom line. Structured data – a spreadsheet, for instance – is searchable and sortable with electronic speed. Searching unstructured data requires time-consuming manual efforts.
Document imaging is one of the ways that unstructured data is transformed to searchable, sortable structured data.
Don’t mistake imaging for a .PDF, however. A .PDF is essentially a picture of a document, and it’s no more searchable than the original paper. By contrast, an imaged document can be read by software. Text and numbers can be extracted, sorted, searched, and linked to other data.
With the speed of automation, the imaged information is compiled into a database. It becomes actionable business intel. Every department can access the data, make better decisions, and operate more productively.
Returning to our case-study hospital: Marketing collaborated with IT to spearhead a pilot project, transitioning to imaged patient-admission documents. As they assembled the now-usable data, they realized that they had a treasure trove of marketing information. They stopped missing opportunities to offer additional services to patients who could benefit from them. And that new equipment became profitable much sooner than expected.
If your business has paper records, you have unstructured data. Transform it into structured data, via document imaging, and start monetizing the information.
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RFID is all about the data – how many, what, where, and who. As a data collection system, RFID is hard to beat. It’s fast, it’s accurate, and it interfaces easily with other automated business-information systems. But like any other business system, RFID’s return on investment is a burning issue for managers. When you analyze the data, is RFID a good business decision?
One industry has already done the science and calculated the math for us: Healthcare.
The healthcare industry has incorporated RFID into many aspects of its operations. RFID was first adopted as an inventory management system for medications. As its value was recognized, it was expanded into asset management, as well as patient and personnel location.
Now RFID systems are tracking medication from manufacturer to patient – something that’s especially important in the delivery of the coronavirus vaccine. RFID labels are applied at factory, tracked to the pharmacy, and ultimately to the individual patient receiving the medication.
With RFID so widespread in the healthcare sector, the question of ROI arose among decision makers. The Mayo Clinic, whose scientific methodology is unimpeachable, undertook a study of the return on investment of hospital RFID systems. Researchers examined search time, shrinkage rates, utilization rates, and RFID implementation costs in a 600-bed hospital.
And the results? The team calculated:
- Payback of initial installation costs – 2 months
- Three-year projected ROI – 327%
Those numbers would make any accountant smile. Of course, every operation is different, and as the saying goes, “your results may vary.” In other industries, RFID can be even more productive, linking to MIS and ERP systems to create an end-to-end BI (business information) system.
A projected ROI of 327% is quite attractive, and with a customized industry-specific RFID system, you may find your ROI is even better. However, unless you have in-depth RFID experience, it’s best to work with an expert. An experienced consultant will design and install a cost-effective RFID system ideally suited to your business. Break out your calculator and start watching your ROI grow.
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RFID began as an inventory management tool, but now it interfaces with every part of an organization. Today there’s an RFID application that will make your operations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable, no matter what your business is.
RFID’s digital records replaced pen-and-paper recordkeeping. As Jeff Schmitz writes in Forbes, RFID began by tracking the location and number of tangible items in a company’s inventory. Its speedy information delivery gave businesses a greater degree of agility in managing the flow of goods.
Then operations managers began to realize that RFID could transform from an inventory monitor to an enterprise-wide information system. An RFID-based “enterprise intelligence” system provides real-time or near-real-time updates on:
- Levels of supplies
- Work in progress
- Staff location
- Equipment condition
In addition to inventory reports, of course.
RFID is even integrated into automated manufacturing, connecting manufacturing execution systems (MES) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and the production floor.
But RFID doesn’t stop with manufacturing and warehousing. Service industries too are benefiting from the speed, accuracy, and efficiency of an RFID intelligence system. Just a few of the service sectors making use of RFID:
- Transportation, Logistics and Postal Services– Have you received a notification of a package delivery or updates on a shipment? These service companies use an RFID-to-customer-order interface to keep recipients informed.
- Law Firms and Libraries– RFID doorway readers monitor the movements of paper documents embedded or tagged with RFID. One-of-a-kind documents are no longer at risk of being lost or misplaced.
- Healthcare– Medical equipment, medications, and staff can be located without delay,
- IT– Equipment in system control rooms and server vaults is tracked to eliminate loss or theft. Company-owned electronic devices (tablets, laptops) assigned to staff are tracked throughout company facilities, and as they leave and return to the building.
The bottom line: Practically every type of business has a need for RFID in many parts of its operations. But as Schmitz points out, “There is no such thing as a standard implementation strategy for RFID, and there is no single ‘best’ RFID solution for all organizations — or even for a particular industry.” An experienced RFID integrator can develop a custom solution for your unique business, and you can begin accruing the benefits of expanded digitalization.
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The benefits of digital asset management (DAM), including RFID, are a hot topic these days. RFID applications are available for any sort of business. But owners and managers of organizations in the service sectors, from finance and law to healthcare and education, may think RFID is just an inventory tool for the retail and logistics sectors.
If you think your enterprise couldn’t benefit from RFID, think again.
- Asset Tracking – Ever notice how there are never enough chairs in the conference room? Furniture, laptops, and other work tools have a way of wandering from their assigned locations. RFID tags keep tabs on the location of these peripatetic items, as well as providing information on their age and condition. Office and facility managers can easily identify aging furnishings that need repairs or replacement, and pinpoint the location of every physical asset. Plus when inventory time comes, the RFID system can deliver a document listing the assigned value of each item currently in the facility, making financial reporting quicker and simpler. What is does it cost your business to update capital inventory records by hand?
- Personnel Tracking – In busy public settings like hospitals or schools, knowing the location of key personnel can save time, or even save a life. RFID-enabled personnel badges keep track of people’s movements and current whereabouts so no time is wasted when someone is urgently needed. RFID personnel badges work with an institution’s security system to manage access to restricted areas and maintain safety. And in emergency situations, an RFID system can tell first responders who is inside and where they are. What is the dollar value of RFID-managed security and safety?
- Document Tracking – We always advocate converting paper documents to digital documents via a well-planned imaging program; imaged documents are secure, shareable with teams, and save the real estate costs of large file rooms. But in many offices there are documents that need to be retained as paper even if they have been imaged. Paper files are easy to lose or misplace (one of the advantages of imaging), but with the addition of small, inconspicuous RFID tags, the location of a file can be tracked throughout an office. Doorway RFID readers monitor the movement of files from one room to another, and files can be located with a quick look at the tracking record. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates an average of 25 extra hours to recreate a lost document; how much would that cost your business?
Keep in mind that RFID, unlike bar codes, doesn’t require direct sight lines to record and track business assets carrying RFID tags. Once items or personnel are assigned their unique RFID tag, doorway readers track their movements automatically as they pass from one room to another. And inventory updates can be as simple as walking into a room and pressing a button on an RFID reader. You’ll instantly collect data on all the capital assets the room contains; no need to look through cabinets and underneath furniture to read bar code IDs. RFID is a timesaver, and like its other benefits, that translates into money.
RFID systems come in many shapes and sizes, and can be scaled up or down to suit your organization’s needs. When you start adding up the costs of lost documents, lost equipment, and lost time, it’s clear that you shouldn’t miss out on the benefits of RFID.
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A deadline is looming for government agencies: By December 31, 2019, they must be able to manage all their records in an electronic format. In the private sector, too, businesses and professional practices have been changing over to electronic record keeping. When your organization’s leaders mandate a move to digital operations, what will that mean for your area of responsibility?
Last year, the director of records management and outreach of NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) issued a useful cost-benefit breakdown that the private sector, as well as the public sector, can utilize for planning a document conversion program. Now that this multi-year conversion effort is nearing its deadline, the same office has published criteria for the successful management of electronic records. And like the cost-benefit analysis, the NARA success guidelines can be applied to private-sector organizations as well.
Among the key benefits of imaging are security, searchability, retrievability, and audit trails. A successful document conversion program will produce these benefits. While the NARA success guidelines are intended for records that originate electronically, a number of the success criteria are applicable to enterprises making the transition from paper to digital documents via an imaging program, including:
- Well-designed access controls that let your organization perform its business functions without additional productivity roadblocks.
- Imaged documents that comply with NARA format and metadata requirements, as well as Sec. 508 regulations, for those enterprises doing business with the federal government.
- Policies that support digital document management, especially organization-wide communication, stakeholder involvement, and personnel training.
When the document conversion mandate comes from your private-sector business’s C-suite, there won’t be an agency like NARA to help guide your transition to electronic records management. But that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the same document-conversion success that the federal agencies have. Reach out to a specialty vendor or consultant working in the imaging field to have them develop a custom conversion program designed for your specific needs.
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Retailers with captive consumers – notably airports and hospitals – used to enjoy a mini-monopoly. The offerings of the shops were limited and the prices were exorbitant. In the late 1990’s, however, airports began to capitalize on their corridors, installing elaborate retail malls and food courts. In some cities, airports even looked to become dining destinations. But hospitals were slow to change. The hospital gift shop continued to disappoint the hopes of shoppers with time on their hands, money in their pockets, and no other retail options.
Now, though, hospital gift shops and pharmacies are starting to realize their larger retail opportunities. Expanding their offerings and bolting on additional services like salons and spas gives hospitals new revenue opportunities. Part of this change is driven by competition among healthcare providers, whose marketing teams actively seek ways to stand out in the marketplace. Online “hospital gift shops” are also grabbing some of the get-well-soon gift business, pushing the brick-and-mortar gift shops into a newly competitive position.
Amy Eagle, writing in Healthcare Facilities Management Magazine, discusses the innovative high-end hospital retail spaces appearing around the country. From relaxing spas to colorful toy stores (like the one pictured here), these retail designs are intended to “distract, amuse, comfort, and soothe.”
The new retail spaces come with a challenge: Where to store all the additional inventory for the expanded retail? Storage space is always at a premium in hospitals; medical supplies and equipment always get first dibs. Space-efficient storage technology – high density mobile shelving, for example – reduces space requirements by 50%, while eliminating much of the shipping packaging commonly found in retail storages areas – packaging which can attract health-compromising pests. It’s a win for everyone – patients, visitors, and hospitals.
The captive consumer, with only a single choice for goods or services, represents the very antithesis of American freedom of choice. While every retailer would be happy to have 100% of the business, they know that competition, although arduous, improves their own opportunities as well as those of their customers. A well-designed space-efficient inventory storage system makes it possible to expand inventory and meet the competitive challenge.
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