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Ann Arbor VA Hospital Tracks Lab Supplies Via RFID

WaveMark's smart cabinets and read stations enable the Michigan medical center to monitor where its lab products are located, when they are used on a patient and when they may be due to expire.
By Claire Swedberg
The VA Ann Arbor hospital currently operates two laboratories that serve as procedure areas for patients—one for catheterization, the other for electrophysiology. In the past, both labs had stored stents, guide wires, catheters and other items on shelves lining the walls, and other assets were stored in drawers and bins. Staff members tended to know where goods were stored, and could quickly access them prior to a procedure. There were several challenges related to this system, however, says Thomas Lewandowski, a registered radiologic technologist and cardiovascular interventional specialist at the VA Ann Arbor hospital. For one thing, he explains, some items were enclosed in drawers and bins, thus making it difficult to see what was available at any given time. In addition, employees had to manually examine the items on a monthly basis, in order to perform inventory counts and check expiration dates. Accessing the bins, drawers and shelves could be difficult as well, since the inventory checks needed to be scheduled for when no surgical procedures were taking place in the room.

With WaveMark's cabinets, the RFID readers automatically provide an electronic record of what is in stock every 30 minutes. When a new product arrives at one of the labs, a worker attaches a passive HF RFID tag to that item and utilizes a WaveMark registration station to scan the product's bar-coded universal product number (UPN), lot number and expiration date, as well as store that data, along with the RFID tag's unique ID number, on WaveMark's server. The tagged item is then placed on a shelf within a WaveMark cabinet. Some manufacturers are tagging their own products and registering those tags in WaveMark's system before shipping the products to the hospital. In those instances, hospital staff merely place the tagged items in the RFID-enabled cabinets.

Two of the 13 WaveMark smart cabinets that were installed at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System

Both labs are adjacent to a control room, where clinical staff members, such as cardiovascular technologists and nurses, can observe the procedure from behind a glass window, monitoring the patient's vital signs and other details. Behind that window is also an XPOS station, with the reader's antenna facing the lab.

To start a procedure's electronic record, control room employees use the XPOS station's bar-code scanner to enter the patient's ID number, then use the touchscreen to select the physician and staff members, and press start. Personnel working with the patient in the lab then wave each stent, balloon, guide wire or other item next to the window as it is being consumed, thereby allowing the XPOS unit to read the item's tag ID through the glass, and creating a record of which items were consumed and on which patient they were used. That data is then forwarded via an interface from WaveMark to the hospital's GE Healthcare hemodynamic recording system software. Once the procedure is complete, a member of the control room staff presses a stop button on the touchscreen, and the software's timer functionality creates a record indicating how long the procedure lasted.

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