Disney Applies Technology to Improve Patient Experience

Gienna Shaw, July 11, 2011

Radio frequency identification (RFID) is a practical tool--often used to keep track of supplies and equipment, for example, or to keep track of surgical instruments such as sponges in the operating room. But a new use for this time-tested technology is emerging: improving the patient experience.

The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center in Burbank, CA, uses RFID tags to track the location of its patients as they move through the system. At their first visit, the patient gets a small card with an RFID chip in it that's loaded with his or her preferences for lighting, temperature, color, and music. The patient keeps the badge over the course of their treatment.

Readers are installed throughout 55,000 square-foot outpatient facility, which is part of the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. Each time a patient walks through the front doors, the reader loads the customized setting. It also sends a message with the patient's name and the time and room number of his first appointment via phone line to the concierge, who greets patients by name and directs them to their appointments. 

When a patient walks into an exam or treatment room, the passive RFID tag sends a signal to nurses that the patient is waiting and sets environmental controls such as lighting and temperature just the way the patient likes it.

The goal was to create a soothing environment that helps cancer patients feel as though they have some control of their cancer therapy and care plan, Ray Lowe, Providence's regional director of IS operations, said in a phone interview. "We believe in healing the whole person—the body, mind, and spirit.”

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