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readers that are optimized for capturing not only nearly 100 percent of reads, but are also optimized for office setups and conflicts," he said. The passive RFID tags used in these systems can now be purchased for less than 25 cents apiece.

"We had to wait until the technology caught up to what we had in mind," Krischer said. "Last year, it reached a point where it was doable, so we embarked on what you now know is the electronic case-file tracking system."

Making the Use Case

Before jumping into implementation, the project team elicited feedback from office users on what the system really needed to do.

Carrie Donohue, head of the State Attorney's Office's Intake Division, said she was initially skeptical the system would work as well as promised. But she and many of her colleagues participated in meetings to help nail down user and system requirements.

"We got together and talked about the project. We did a flow chart and discussed whom the project would impact," she said. "We got together and had meetings that discussed how it was going to work. What we needed it to do was always taken into consideration."

Weber said the upfront work is what made the system such a success. "We spent a lot of time with the attorneys and staff to understand the kind of use cases they wanted to satisfy," he said. "They walked us through how they wanted to track files, how people carry those files, what doorways they walk through and how fine they needed the accuracy of results to be."

The use-case discussion, which is used to determine system requirements, allowed the development team - made up of office members, InnerWireless and Computer Information & Planning Inc. - to understand the tracking requirements before programming a single line. "We didn't want to disturb patterns that users were accustomed to following," Weber said. "The point is not to change behavior, but to complement it. So we made sure that we understood the behaviors and tailored the system to that."

The resulting solution provided office workers with the RFID solution and also seamlessly integrated it into the existing proprietary case database system used in state attorney offices across Florida. The solution was completed in less than a month.

Implementation Challenges

Zinn and Weber credit the upfront use-case design for the system's success. But Zinn said the project would not have gone forward without executive buy-in.

"We had a very defined business problem," Zinn said. "But that executive buy-in was crucial. Without the support of the state attorney making sure the project was funded, and that divisions were committed to the idea and helping everyone understand the benefits, it wouldn't matter how good the technology was - we wouldn't be here."

In fact, funding was the only hiccup in an otherwise quick and clean implementation.

"Initially the source of our funding stream was not clear," Krischer said. Internal state politics made it unclear whether the state or the county was responsible for footing the bill. Eventually Krischer was able to cover the approximately $100,000 system cost from the proceeds of a $2 assessment fee on clerk office filings. However, the delay in determining the funding stream ended up being beneficial.

"The longer we strung it out, the cheaper the [RFID] labels became," Krischer said. "Ultimately stringing it out became a benefit, not a hindrance."

Office employees are satisfied with the new tracking capabilities. "We love it," Donohue said. "Even those of us who were skeptical can't believe we ever did without it." The office plans more enhancements, including RFID cards for personnel and timestamp logs for when employees and files leave the building.

Krischer said naysayers must see the system in use to understand how powerful it is. "Anyone who comes here and sees a secretary just type in a case file number and then see exactly where the file is located on the office schematic is always impressed," Krischer said. "The system sells itself. You just have to come here and see it."

 

 

Kayt Sukel  |  Contributing Writer
Kayt Sukel is a writer based near Frankfurt, Germany. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Government Health IT and Healthcare Informatics.