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University of Michigan Health System Tags Surgical Tissue

The hospital is using passive high-frequency RFID tags to secure and manage up to 190 different tissue products, including bone fragments and skin for grafting.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 14, 2009The University of Michigan Health System, with six facilities and 60 surgical rooms, is employing an RFID-based system for tissue tracking as the first step in a push toward automating and better securing its many assets, medical devices and laboratory items. The system, provided by Mobile Aspects, enables the hospital to control which personnel retrieve tissue products for surgical procedures, which patient receives each product, and if they are utilized or returned unused. For items requiring refrigeration, the system also monitors the length of time they remain out of cold storage.

With that data, the hospital can provide regulatory agencies with better records of the human, animal and synthetic tissues it stores and uses in surgery. The facility can also reduce wastage, as staff members are held responsible for all items they remove from storage.

To help it track tissue products, the University of Michigan Health System has deployed two cabinets fitted with RFID readers and a touch-screen monitor.
The hospital stores as many as 190 different tissue products, including skin and bone fragments, some of which can be valued as high as $10,000. All have an expiration date, beyond which the hospital must dispose of any item not used. To manage the tissues in the hospital's adult surgical area, employees previously stored items in a variety of locations distributed around 26 operating rooms. The nursing staff would manually record, on paper, each time they took an item out of storage, by writing down for whom that product was destined, then doing so again if they returned it unused. Despite the items' high value, the hospital was unwilling to lock the cabinets and cooling units that housed them, because they needed to be accessible to the nursing staff at any hour of the day, often with short notice. Frequently, multiple products are removed from storage in various sizes prior to a particular surgical procedure, so that the surgeon could determine the best size during the operation. The unused tissue products would then be returned to storage.

All of this, says Patricia Silverman, the hospital's business systems leader for operating rooms, was a poor use of the medical staff's time, and the removal of tissue from storage simply wasn't always recorded.

The Mobile Aspects system offers benefits on several layers, Silverman says. Not only is the movement of tissue items tracked by RFID, but the cabinets, freezer and refrigerator doors are locked until workers scan proximity badges and select a patient, thus indicating who has taken which items, as well as for which patient they are destined, thereby reducing tissue theft or wastage.

Each tissue item is tagged with a Texas Instruments 13.56 MHz high-frequency (HF) passive RFID tag, complying with the ISO 15693 standard, attached to the bottom of the cardboard box or plastic bag containing that tissue. The hospital prints the item's serial number printed on the front. Mobile Aspects software, running on a server housed within the hospital, contains the unique RFID number encoded to each item's tag, and associates it with that item's serial and lot numbers, description, expiration date, temperature requirements and other data.

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