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Tokyo Hospital Tracks Equipment via RFID-Enabled Shelving

Teijin's Recopick system allows St. Luke's International Hospital to manage the location and status of pumps and other devices, thereby eliminating visits to its clinical engineering room, and reducing the tendency of nurses to horde equipment in their wards.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 29, 2017

Tokyo's St. Luke's International Hospital has completed a pilot of RFID technology to track the movement of equipment. The facility found that the technology identified stock levels at each of its wards in real time, and reduced the number of staff visits to the central clinical engineering room by approximately 55 percent. The technology, known as Recopick, is provided by Japanese carbon-fiber and plastics technology company Teijin Ltd.

St. Luke's serves approximately 2,550 outpatients daily and has 520 beds for patients staying at the facility. It includes 13 floors and a total of 60,000 square meters (646,000 square feet) of facility space in its main building The hospital is growing with the demands of its community; recently, it added an annex and birth clinic containing 19 beds.

St. Luke's International Hospital
Much of the hospital's equipment used to treat patients, such as infusion pumps, syringe pumps, low-pressure continuous suction devices and oxygen flow meters, was stored in centralized clinical engineering rooms when not in use. This meant that employees seeking equipment had to walk to and from these centralized rooms many times during each shift. To create a record of which personnel took which items, the hospital used a bar-code system so that workers in the engineering rooms could scan each asset as a nurse borrowed or returned it. Because this process was so time-consuming, nurses often kept medical devices in their own wards so that they could easily access them again. For the hospital, that meant the items appeared to be missing, and stocks were thus replenished unnecessarily.

St. Luke's began seeking a better, more automated solution in 2016 and deployed Recopick in the spring of that year. About 1,300 pumps and oxygen flow meters were tagged with passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags with a waterproof casing, so that they could sustain cleaning and sterilization processes.

All shelves in the medical engineering center, as well as throughout 22 wards, were retrofitted with Recopick RFID-enabled sheets that are laid over each shelf, says Natsuki Aramoto, the company's team leader of new application development for smart sensing. Tagged items are placed directly onto those sheets, he explains. Each shelf unit comes with a Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL) CS468 reader and Teijin's proprietary antenna sheet to capture tag ID numbers.

The readers forward the collected data to software, indicating which specific item is stored on which shelf. Recopick also provides RFID-enabled disposal units so that users can view what has been discarded. The engineering room shelves are divided into two categories: those on which devices are awaiting cleaning and maintenance after being returned by a nurse, and those that have been serviced and cleaned and are ready for reuse.

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