HealthRFID

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Portrait of HealthRFID CEO and Founder Robert Reed

A Lesson in Agility and Lateral Thinking – Our interview with HealthRFID founder & CEO Robert Reed

CEO Robert Reed established HealthRFID in 2014, after witnessing firsthand the supply chain issues of the healthcare industry.

The company saw early success after unveiling the benefits hospitals can experience through the optimization of their biologic supply chains. A decade later, HealthRFID has since expanded into a variety of healthcare sectors and geographical markets.

In this article, Robert delves into HealthRFID’s inception, its motivations, and methodologies – and provides a glimpse into the future of the company.

Could you please share the inspiration from which HealthRFID was born and the opportunities that prompted you to begin this venture?

I’d say back in 2005, I became interested in tracking technologies like RFID to read things that couldn’t be read in the past, which I thought was exciting.

But it wasn’t until 2014 when we started applying these solutions to the health industry that we realized the true potential. This was the beginning of HealthRFID.

I remember when we got our first order from an organization in Sydney, the previous week they’d lost a whole day’s worth of specimen samples that had only come out of a theatre the previous day.

Hence, they were quite motivated to make sure that that never happened again. To me, that was a good sign that there was a real opportunity to address an important problem.

From that point onwards, it was HealthRFID’s focus to improve the tracking of biological materials and to provide real-time information to hospitals and pathology companies. The goal was to make a difference in their operations and improve efficiency through tracking technologies.

We looked at it from a systems perspective. By that I mean – what can we do for the end user in terms of solving their problems? But above all, at the end of the day, the real benefit is for the patients – if we can help make a difference in their lives, that’s a great thing. I think you can really add some value there.

What were the initial challenges that you confronted when starting on this journey, and what helped you to overcome them?

Yeah, there’s a couple of things I’d say about that. One that we learned early on, is that you need to be constantly nimble.

The adoption of RFID was, and is still very immature. Even today, blood bags are tracked using paper and pencil rather than any sort of electronic means – which is ridiculous when you consider the value of blood.

For instance, a bag of blood is worth around $500, yet we’re using more technology to track soda cans worth less than a dollar. In the case of blood, it’s a donated item from the public, and at least in my mind – the value goes way beyond $500.

“For instance, a bag of blood is worth around $500, yet we’re using more technology to track soda cans worth less than a dollar. In the case of blood, it’s a donated item from the public, and at least in my mind – the value goes way beyond $500”

What we’ve found in forensics is that it’s challenging, but it’s always been challenging. Nevertheless, I always believe that you can work around these challenges, solve them, and still deliver the value that’s required by the solution.

We began incorporating other technologies such as Bluetooth into our solutions to provide more practical and cost-effective outcomes where possible – instead of trying to shoehorn RFID into everything.

I think there are lots of opportunities within healthcare, but as I said, you need to be nimble and be able to pivot, like pivoting from pathology to forensics. These sectors are vastly different, and to recognize the issues that they all share, and then tailor solutions to what makes them unique – has been critical to our success.

We’ve also made a habit of developing our products alongside our customers as we go along, which really gives you the best chance of them being able to perform at the highest standard. Doing that successfully relies on particularly good relationships with your customers, which I think we’ve managed to achieve.

Front view of HealthRFID's head office

HealthRFID Head Office

Looking back over the last 10 years, can you please highlight one or two pivotal moments or milestones that have significantly shaped the trajectory of the company?

Well, I think that first order in Sydney pointed out that not only, in theory, could we deliver value, but in reality we could deliver value. So that’s important.

I think the relationship with Joondalup Health Campus (JHC) in Western Australia has been great. We’ve now been working with them for about 5 years, and certainly, Angie and her team have been a big driver and a big motivator from our perspective into the value of what we can achieve for hospitals in particular. What was pretty amazing in terms of Joondalup is that we were able to reduce the amount of blood labeling errors by 93% through electronic labeling practices.

Labeling errors and sample rejections are not uncommon in the industry. For instance, I remember hearing about a patient in a different hospital needing a bedside test to be redone 5 times. In terms of the impact on the patient, there’s no way that the patient should have to go through that. To come close to virtually eliminating that has been a big highlight.

“…I remember hearing about a patient in a different hospital needing a bedside test to be redone 5 times. In terms of the impact on the patient, there’s no way that the patient should have to go through that. To come close to virtually eliminating that has been a big highlight.”

I also think the work we’ve been doing with decedent tracking at VIFM (The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine) in Melbourne and the potential for that has been promising. It’s really allowed us to refine our craft and expand into large overseas markets successfully. Moreover, we’re getting a lot of interest in this area, more than we’ve had in other sectors of the industry – so I think there will be a heavy focus here going forward.

Wrapping up, as we look to the future – what’s ahead on the radar at the company and abroad, and what trends do you see on the horizon?

I’m quite excited about Histopath and their vision in terms of turnaround times of tests for skin tests for cancer patients. You know, patients have to wait up to 20 days for a test result when they’ve got cancer. It’s just unacceptable and anything we can do to assist in helping them to address that I’m very keen for and I’m very motivated to make sure that we do that.

But really, I think it’s all about continuing to focus on getting in front of our customers and potential customers wherever they may be. This year we’re really buckling down and spending more time overseas than we ever have. It’s April and we’ve already been to the USA, New Zealand, and the Middle East. That’s a very big focus and I’m keen to make sure that we deliver on that, so we’ve put the resources in to make it happen.

In terms of trends there’s not likely to be that much change, I think. We’re going to drive the trends in terms of the information provided to the end customer. I think we’re constantly trying to work out well, what does the customer want, and keep developing that up and delivering on the underlying technology.

Whilst Blu-Fi has come out in recent years, there’s not likely to be a great deal of change. But certainly, if something came up, I’m more than happy to replace it with a different application or even the current application if that’s what’s required, but it’s unlikely.

The trends and innovations are pointed towards data and providing data integration and that’s what we need to focus on. Things could change, but its persistence really, that’s what makes the difference. You can always go in and give up after a month but really, that’s never been me. We’ve been doing it for 10 years now and I’m keen to keep on going. If we need to pivot a bit, we pivot, but we’ll keep on focusing on the job and working on what we can do to deliver.

“You can always go in and give up after a month but really, that’s never been me. We’ve been doing it for 10 years now and I’m keen to keep on going.”

Thanks for reading. You can learn more about HealthRFID here or learn about our platform here.