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Mercy Medical Tracks Cardiovascular Consumables

The Des Moines, Iowa, hospital is employing passive HF tags to inventory its supply of stents, balloons and other devices used in its catheterization lab—and, eventually, to bill patients.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jun 05, 2007Mercy Medical Center, a 917-bed hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, is using an RFID system to help track its inventory of cardiovascular stents, balloons, filter wires, thrombectomy devices and many other medical consumables in its six-room catheterization laboratory.

The RFID system, provided by WaveMark, leverages passive 13.56 MHz tags complying with the ISO 15693 standard; intelligent cabinets with built-in RFID interrogators that read items on the shelves every 12 minutes; point-of-service (POS) fixed RFID readers that companies can install in places where items are used in order to track actual usage; and Web-based software to monitor, analyze and manage inventory. Based in Boxborough, Mass., WaveMark manages the system as a hosted service in a secure data center in Dallas. Edwards Lifesciences, an Irvine, Calif., maker of heart valves and other health-care products, introduced Mercy to WaveMark and participated in the initial testing of the system by supplying pre-tagged items.

Mercy is a member of Catholic Health Initiatives and Mercy Health Network. The hospital is employing the system to track 1,600 items ranging in value from about $100 to $2,500 in 16 intelligent cabinets, according to Lynda Wilson, Mercy's administrative project analyst. Six of the cabinets are in the hospital's peripheral vascular storeroom, with five in the cardiac storeroom and one apiece in its four catheterization procedure rooms. Wilson says the hospital also plans to install a cabinet in each of its two electrophysiology procedure rooms. POS interrogators have been placed in two control rooms, where hospital personnel document each patient's case.

Hospital employees affix two RFID tags to the sides of each device's outer box. Tags are not reused. "We suggest using two tags per box because we insist on 100 percent read rates," explains Carola Endicott, WaveMark's VP of hospital services. Each tag contains its own unique ID number. The ID numbers are associated with a bar-code number applied by the device's manufacturer before shipment; hospital employees scan the bar code with a bar-code reader, and that data is correlated with the RFID tag numbers. The cabinet readers and the POS devices are connected to the Internet, and both update the status of all tagged products in the WaveMark system, three times per hour.

Because the cabinets automatically read all the tags numerous times daily, the system has a near-real-time count of inventory levels, which continually change whenever an item is removed or put into the intelligent cabinets. This enables the hospital to track which stents are pulled out for patients, which are ultimately used and which are put back. Typically, more than one stent is pulled for a patient because physicians don't know the exact type and/or size of stent that will be used until the implantation begins.

Once the procedure is completed, employees return the unused stents to the cabinets. Sometimes, however, unused stents aren't returned to the cabinets and turn up missing. By checking the WaveMark Web-based application, inventory personnel can determine approximately when the stents were removed, making it easier to track them down.

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