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Meaningful Health Care Informatics Blog

Feb 20 2011   8:52PM GMT

NFC technology and its impact on healthcare

Posted by: RedaChouffani

Recently during a meeting with a CIO, it was no surprise to me that just as other executives, having a finger on the technology pulse is just part of the responsibilities. It wasn’t so much to know every little gadget that was hitting the shelves, but more so of the market phenomenon’s, predictions and identifying if these so called the latest and greatest are in fact items that will bring value to the organization or not. Our conversation started from a simple keyword: NFC (Near Field Communication). Of course this word meant a lot to me as I have been keeping a close eye on this technology.I have been very excited about this for many years, and sadly the US market has been a little behind in these products.

NFC stands for near field communication. It is a simple technology that allows users to hold NFC devices at close proximity (10 cm) and then enables them to access services and interact with content, transmit information and even make payments. This wireless short-range communication technology does also allow for data exchange at a rate up to 424 kilobits per second.

Of course several vendors have already been preparing for this growing phenomenon in the US. Apple has been rumored that they will have an NFC-enabled device with the release of the iPhone 5 and possibly in the new generation of iPad. The nexus S with the new Android kernel already has hidden NFC functions with it that will ensure that any smart mobile equipped with Android and a NFC chip can read/write NFC Tag.

But the big question revolves around the applications of this specific technology. How can it be a valuable in healthcare?What processes can be streamlined and automated with the use of NFC?How can they improve patient care and satisfaction?But in order to answer those questions, we need to look at how other markets have used NCF to resolve different business challenges.

General examples of existing NFC applications:

  • Mobile financial services: Identification, account inquiry, Bank transfer between two devices (consumer to retail, consumer to consumer)
  • Consumer Space: Carrying your coupons electronically, Gift cards (you receive a gift card electronically, keep the balance in the cloud and use your smartphone to pay and view balance)
  • Smart posters (movies, concerts, retailers) where rich content is transmitted to the phone when your smartphone or mobile device scans the embedded NFC tag in the poster.
  • Electronic ticketing where the mobile phone is used as the travel card or ticket (you still keep your phone of course).This eliminates the need for paper based tickets and printing tickets for airlines or Metro.

While the US has only seen few NFC projects being implemented (payment projects at several of the banks such as Wells Fargo, New York Citibank, Atlanta Chase, and 7 Eleven) there has been very little consumer adoption here.But as we see the success seen in the European and Asian countries, it is clear that we are next in line for adopting NFC based solutions in our daily lives.

Some of the areas that will have possible NFC implementations:

  • Employees using the devices to replace their card swiping practice to gain access to building
  • Patients using their phones to check-in at medical facilities
  • Patients downloading content details on prescribed medication
  • Home health personnel to clock in when visiting patients
  • Patients using their NFC capable phones to make payments on their balance
  • Patients can view content while visiting patients
  • Lower cost identification tags for inventory
  • Easy exchange of basic demographic information at any practice using NFC USB dongles and integration software to capture the data into the registration system
  • Time and location tracking capability

The potential uses of NFC will continue to increase as more executives and innovators start seeing NFC enabled devices.And with more popular consumer electronics manufacturing including NFC chips in their devices (Apple, Nokia, HTC, Google, and others alike) all we have to do is sit back and evaluate the business case of using such technology and ensure that a tangible ROI is there for us to pursuit.

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