Technology Gone Bad? False Starts, Poor Design, and User Error in Health IT

Published: Thursday, Feb 21, 2008
In fact, medical identity theft is so significant, it is the first information crime that could actually jeopardize your life. In the face of this growing epidemic, healthcare companies are jumping on the security bandwagon with RFID (radio frequency identifi cation devices) technology, bar-coding, and related identity management schemes.

According to Healthcare IT News, this response is due in part to new advances in healthcare that are outpacing security procedures, leaving companies vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of data theft. The remedy? Tracking devices complete with patient medical history and identification that is electronically embedded on the medication bottle.

RFID provides a response to this frightening trend in identity breaching with tags that can be attached to a product for the purpose of identification, using radio waves. Chip-based RFID tags contain silicon chips and antennas. The tags have their own internal power source, used to fuel an outgoing signal, transmitting high-powered radio waves with an average battery lifespan of 10 years. As a result, this technology permits optimal tracking of medications in and out of warehouses and supplier divisions.

Pfizer is one of several pharmaceutical companies eager to implement such a technology. In preparation for its first RFID trial, Pfizer has started tagging individual bottles of Viagra. Th at way, supply chain partners can easily collect information for identifi cation when working with the company. Pfizer has also partnered with SupplyScape's RxAuthentication Service to verify the authenticity with RFID tags on the drugs they receive. The Service assigns a serial number to every pharmaceutical package, referred to as an Electronic Product Code (EPC), which can be authenticated before consumer distribution. It makes use of RFID tags to store the drug information, which can be verified by pharmacies through the Internet. To date, more than 300,000 authentications have been performed on RFID-tagged Viagra bottles. I guess you could say they're "raising the stakes."

"The use of reliable, high-performance RFID adds an important security layer [in combating counterfeit products and preserving brand integrity]," says Dimitri Desmons, VP for RFID Marketing at Impinj, Inc., a public relations and communications company. "Impinj's UHF [ultra-high frequency] Gen 2 products are ideal for pharmaceutical applications, because they are field-proven, exhibit high performance, meet or exceed rigorous industry standards and pass robust interoperability and functionality tests," he says. Impinj is a fabless (meaning they do not manufacture their own) semiconductors company, whose Self-Adaptive Silicon" technology is responsible for the output of their RFID products.

Founder and Editor of RFID Journal, Mark Roberti, advocates RFID use. "Kimberly-Clark is now tracking promotional displays using RFID and has found that in some cases the retailer gets the display out on time 99 percent of the time, and sometimes it is less than 60 percent of the time, depending on the type of promotion and product involved," he says. "K-C is now acting on the RFID data to get the displays to the retail floor on time when the promotional advertising hits." Kimberly-Clark was the fi rst US company to ship an item tagged with an EPC off a commercial line, in April 2004 (

Since then, the international organization has established the standards for RFID tags. The company is already able to selectively tag more than 144 of the items in its product line and has even built a 5,000-square-foot warehouse for the sole purpose of testing its use of RFID. Surely that's enough radio waves to power even the highest definition TV set.

Crime Keeps on Slippin'...

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