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BJC Healthcare Adopts RFID Cabinets to Track Surgical Devices

The Midwest hospital operator is deploying a solution from Cardinal Health across all cath labs, GI labs and operating rooms, to track the high-value implants and surgical devices kept onsite.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 30, 2015

BJC HealthCare, which operates 12 hospitals in Illinois and Missouri, is in a multiyear process of deploying radio frequency identification technology to track and manage the thousands of medical supplies it uses.

The high-frequency (HF) RFID system consists of cabinets with built-in readers, passive HF RFID tags, handheld reader wands, and Cardinal Inventory Management Solution software on a cloud-based server to manage the collected data, all provided by Cardinal Health. BJC is installing the technology first in its cardiac cath labs, followed by its gastrointestinal (GI) labs, its intervention radiology department and its operating rooms. To date, the company has installed 70 cabinets in 27 rooms, within nine departments and five hospitals, tracking a total of 2,708 stock-keeping units (SKUs). The system is expected to be completely deployed by the first quarter of 2017, with between three and five times more cabinets than are currently installed, at three to five times more locations across its 12 hospitals.

In an operating room, clinicians use a point-of-use RFID reader to capture a tag's ID and thereby assign that product to a particular patient.
BJC HealthCare is one of the largest nonprofit health-care organizations in the United States, serving the greater St. Louis area, as well as mid-Missouri and southern Illinois. Its hospitals each use equipment and supplies that function as tools during procedures or are implanted into patients.

Stephen Kiewiet, BJC's VP of supply chain operations
Prior to the RFID system's installation, the hospitals and the units within them employed multiple manual methods to monitor equipment and supplies, says Stephen Kiewiet, BJC's VP of supply chain operations. The hospitals purchase a variety of goods directly from suppliers, and also maintain an inventory of consignment items onsite for specific procedures, remaining in ownership of those supplies until each product is used on a patient. In either category, the products' expiration dates must be closely tracked to avoid the need to discard them before they can be used. In addition, some items sometimes become lost, and a lot of labor is spent responding to product recalls or conducting inventory checks.

"These departments are busy," Kiewiet says, "and there are times when something looks low and they order more." This manual reordering process can lead to excess inventory onsite. With an RFID system in place, the organization believed it could gain a real-time view of each item and its location, expiration date, and lot and serial numbers.

In early 2014, the hospital launched a pilot involving two cardiac cath labs and one GI lab, which it completed within one year. Afterward, financing was approved to deploy the solution across the entire organization's medical and surgical supply rooms.

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