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Study Shows How to Optimize RFID-Enabled Resupply System for Nurse Stations
Hospitals could reduce labor costs by 18 percent by optimizing an existing RFID-based medicine-replenishment system for nurses, a University of Cincinnati research team finds.
Jun 22, 2011—Hospitals spend upwards of 30 percent of their total operational budgets on securing and managing consumable medical supplies, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC), so they pay considerable attention to how these supplies are best managed. Since such items play a crucial role in patient care, many medical facilities tend to overstock nursing stations in order to ensure that these supplies never fall below safe inventory levels—because if that were to happen, an unexpected demand spike could lead to an outage of crucial items. But from a financial perspective, overstocking can also be a problem, as it can lead to over-ordering.
Michael Magazine, a UC professor of operations and business analytics, set out to find a way to improve how hospitals dispense and manage supplies to nursing stations. After conducting a study on the subject, Magazine presented his findings at the Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) Healthcare Conference, held this week in Montreal.
Michigan State University, and Uday Rao, a UC associate professor of operations and business analytics, to determine how hospitals could optimize the process for nursing stations using a kanban-based resupply system developed by Canadian RFID solutions provider Logi-D. The system, known as 2BIN-iD, features a shelving unit with multiple baskets for storing supplies, as well as a card containing an embedded 13.56 MHz passive RFID tag attached to each basket.
The study was carried out at Magazine's UC lab, using data collected from hospitals at which the 2BIN-iD system has been deployed. This information, supplied by Logi-D, showed the team the rate at which each type of consumable item was depleted, along with how often each hospital's staff restocked every item. The team also visited some of those facilities, in order to observe nurses as they removed supplies from the 2BIN-iD baskets, and to observe the employees who restocked them.
The passive RFID tag embedded in each basket's card is compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, and there are two baskets assigned to every item stocked on the shelves. So, for example, one might find two baskets containing sutures, and each bin might hold 25 sutures when fully stocked. When a nurse takes the last suture from the first basket, positioned in front of the second, he or she removes the empty basket, along with the RFID card clipped to that basket, and then clips this card to a board, also produced by Logi-D. An RFID reader mounted behind the board collects the unique ID number encoded to the card's tag, and sends this data to Logi-D's LogiDATA-iD software application, which links the transponder information to the supply database. The software then automatically issues resupply requests to the appropriate personnel, who can unclip the RFID card from the board, affix it to a full basket and place that basket on the shelf.
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