Process Mapping and RFID: Complementarities

Process Mapping and RFID: Complementarities

David A. Clark (University of North Carolina Hospitals, USA, & University of Missouri, USA) and Kalyan S. Pasupathy (Mayo Clinic, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5202-6.ch170


Healthcare processes have variability embedded within care delivery systems. Process mapping has been traditionally used to study processes, and is based on human perceptions of how the process is structured and how care is delivered. Process mapping can be biased based on individual perceptions and not comprehensive to capture variability. Radio frequency identification (RFID) provides a more objective means for collecting process-related data. This paper discusses process mapping, its benefits and drawbacks, and how RFID can complement process mapping. Qualitative information (process mapping) and quantitative information (data collected using RFID and from other sources) can potentially be combined to develop process models. Such models can inform process improvement and increase safety and efficiency.
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Variability is inherent in health care and is a result of many complex interactions between patients and providers, and those among providers. Physician autonomy is one aspect that causes variability. Professionals with autonomy tend to have control over conditions, processes, and procedures (Walter & Lopez, 2008) and this leads to the existence of differentiated process pathways. Providers work in their respective silos and hence are often unaware of how their role in a process relates to others, and how their input impacts the entire process. This lack of awareness can result in decisions that negatively impact the entire process. Also, well intentioned attempts at improvement that lack a systems perspective can lead to sub-optimization (Simons & Moore, 1992).

In an attempt to reduce process variability, hospitals have adopted conventional process mapping techniques. Process maps are best suited for routine linear transformations of homogeneous inputs into standard outputs, found in “factory” environments. However, the value obtained by hospitals using these maps is limited. For non-routine processes exhibited in health care scenarios, process issues cannot be resolved by forcing dynamic disjointed procedures into process maps (Biazzo, 2002). Thus, a significant gap exists between what is mapped and what actually occurs. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has the ability to automatically identify and collect data (Fosso Wamba, Lefebvre, Bendavid, & Lefebvre, 2008; E.W.T. Ngai, Poon, Suk, & Ng, 2009; Sellitto, Burgess, & Hawking, 2007; Ting, Kwok, Tsang, & Lee, 2011). The data obtained from RFID can be integrated with existing data to improve the process model. This also reduces the need for manual data collection which is the primary cause for missing and inaccurate data. Such data collection can enable understanding of complex interactions in health care, variability in the process, and support continuous process improvement efforts.

The purpose is to review process mapping and RFID, their applications, benefits and drawbacks. This highlights the complementary nature of process mapping and RFID. Finally, issues relating to adoption of RFID and future research directions are identified.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Process Map: A process map is a visual tool used to document activities needed to achieve a certain outcome.

RFID Tag: An RFID tag consists of a microchip that stores information and an antenna used to transmit data via radio-waves.

Passive RFID: Passive RFID tags do not contain a power source, and hence cannot transmit a signal without being powered by an RFID reader.

Variability: Variability is inherent in health care and is a result of many complex interactions between patients and providers and among providers.

Process Visibility: Process visibility refers to the ability to see and understand all aspects of a process at any point in time.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID is a tool used to track the flow of people and materials through a system.

Active RFID: Active RFID tags contain a power source, such as a battery, and continuously transmit signals to readers.

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