MedKeeper: “Based on similar use cases, the comparison between bar code and RFID technologies is inevitable. Several papers have reviewed the use of these technologies in hopes of defining best practice. Young concluded that a coordinated use of these technologies might provide the best compromise between implementation costs and potential benefits. RFID technology, with its high cost, may be most appropriate for patient identification, while the lower cost of bar code systems may be more appropriate for material inventory.
Sun et al. arrived at a similar conclusion. In this case, the authors evaluated medication error reduction. Due to the high cost of RFID tags and readers the authors proposed a system utilizing less costly bar codes for unit-dose medications while using an RFID-embedded wristband worn by patients for identification.”
Two different technologies that are, in a very broad sense, used to do similar things, i.e. keep track of things and provide users with information. I’m a fan of both technologies, although there are likely fewer use cases for RFID in healthcare today than there are with bar code technology. For all intents and purposes bar code scanning has become ubiquitous in hospitals due to its ease of use and low cost. Hospitals commonly use bar code scanning for inventory management, medication preparation and distribution, and scanning at the point of care, which means that the infrastructure needed for expanded bar code scanning is already in place. The introduction of RFID technology on the other hand, would likely require additional hardware, software, and setup time. Perhaps not always, but on average I bet that’s true.
As the article states, both technologies have potential uses, but it’s likely that RFID will fit fewer existing models in pharmacy than bar code scanning. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to RFID technology over the next five years. I once thought it would be commonplace in pharmacy practice, but I’m not sure anymore. Outside of a few specialized uses, it just never took off. On the flip side, bar code technology is everywhere inside a pharmacy these days.
References used in the MedKeeper article:
 Am J Health Syst Pharm 2006 Dec 15;63(24):2431-2435
 J Med Syst 2008 Aug;2(4):327-32