What to Know Before Rolling Out Real-Time Location Solutions Across Your Healthcare System

I sat down with an RN from APAC and a healthcare technologist from EMEA to talk about how RFID and other track and trace technologies are saving lives and money in hospitals, as well as best practices and common mistakes they see with location technology implementations.

Two nurses use an RFID sled attached to a Zebra mobile computer to look for supplies
by Chris Sullivan
August 10, 2022

Some say the healthcare community is a laggard when it comes to location solutions. Manufacturers, retailers and even the NFL have been using RFID to track and trace supplies, equipment, and people for years. However, new regulations are giving hospital leaders more reasons to prioritize RTLS projects, as are labor shortages, supply chain constraints and patient calls for better care. 

In fact, three-quarters of global hospital leaders say they plan to rollout location technologies such as RFID in the coming months to better track equipment and specimens and improve patient flow and security. They are also turning to real-time location systems (RTLS) to create more dynamic workflows and improve staff efficiency, safety, and compliance, according to feedback received in Zebra’s latest Healthcare Vision Study

That means a lot of people within the healthcare community are going to be moving really fast to figure out which RTLS is best for them and understand the potential return on investment (ROI). This includes IT, clinical and operations teams that may only be familiar with barcode-based track and trace technologies. 

There is also going to be a push to balance regulatory compliance requirements with other operational needs, such as more automated workflows and decision-making capabilities, which I suspect will lead to conversations about priorities. Which technology deployment needs to take precedence and why? How do location solutions need to interface with the electronic medical record (EMR), room management and inventory systems driving clinical and operational actions? What are the risks of rolling out RTLS without making other technology infrastructure updates first? 

So, I asked Wayne Miller, one of Zebra’s EMEA healthcare leaders, as well as Johnny Ong, who is a registered nurse (RN) and serves as Zebra’s healthcare practice lead in APAC, to join me for a roundtable discussion about the trends, opportunities, best practices and key learnings unfolding in healthcare specific to RTLS.

Hear Their Front-Line Perspective and Advice to Decision-Makers

Wayne has been working closely with the UK National Health Service (NHS) and others across EMEA on healthcare modernization projects for many years, to include the Scan4Safety program and Falsified Medicines Directive (FMD) compliance. More recently, he has shifted his focus exclusively to initiatives that use RTLS to solve problems for the healthcare community. As he will tell you, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to commit to a certain technology “solution” without first figuring out what it really is that you’re solving for. In other words, he’s a “workflow-first” evangelist.

And Johnny, who has been on the front lines of healthcare for many years, is a staunch advocate of RTLS and, more importantly, information system interoperability. He has personally seen the consequences of siloed data systems, to include delayed patient care. And he knows that if hospitals don’t go back to basics – if they skip fundamental steps in the healthcare maturity model – then patient care will suffer as much as hospitals’ bottom lines. 

So, I spent 30 minutes talking with Wayne and Johnny about:

  • The current regulatory climate in different countries and how mandates are driving healthcare leaders to go “beyond the barcode” to facilitate track and trace.

  • Just how much the pandemic accelerated the adoption of RFID and other location solutions in clinical settings.

  • The types of technologies commonly used for healthcare RTLS applications (as compared to manufacturing, retail or football player tracking).

  • What RTLS really offers healthcare practitioners, administrators, support staff and patients beyond “a dot on a screen.” 

During our discussion, they also shared:

  • Real-world examples of what happens when clinicians and other hospital staff don’t have the luxury of real-time location insights during patient care.

  • How to use RTLS to solve for common healthcare business problems, beyond compliance mandates, and why you can’t commit to any RTLS investments without first understanding the clinical challenges and workflows that need addressing.

  • What healthcare providers can do to better prepare and organize RTLS implementations, and common missteps that could diminish the ROI.

  • The level of interoperability needed between information systems and edge technologies for RTLS to be impactful.

  • The key learnings and outcomes from the Scan4Safety program in the UK, and how they should be applied by all healthcare providers around the world who are moving to RFID for track and trace.

  • Why healthcare has been slow to adopt RTLS even though the benefits far outweigh the risks (or cost).

  • How to build the business case – and prove the value proposition – for RTLS in healthcare, including steps that can be taken to prove RFID’s now-critical role in the orchestration of efficient, automated, safety-first workflows.


Chris Sullivan
Chris Sullivan is the Global Healthcare Practice Lead for Zebra Technologies and is responsible for the strategy and marketing functions for the Healthcare vertical business.
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