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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
All unused items are then returned to the cabinets, where the readers again capture the ID numbers and update the software to indicate which products were not used. If any object is unaccounted for—for example, if it was not used during the procedure and was not returned—the system lists that asset, and the staff can then access the list to determine what may be missing.

"We have probably recovered items that would have been lost otherwise," Lewandowski reports, since workers can now see not only what was missing but where its tag was last read. This enables the staff to conduct a search to determine if the item was misplaced, fell behind a shelf or was used on a patient without its tag being waved in front of the reader at the time of the procedure.

The hospital currently has approximately 2,100 tagged items stored within the smart cabinets, though the quantity changes regularly as items are removed or returned, and Hernandez can view those changes in the WaveMark system. This, she says, spares the staff hours of time previously spent entering unoccupied labs and updating inventory. A list in the WaveMark software also indicates which items have reached, or are nearing, their expiration dates, as well as in which cabinets those items are located. That same data can be provided in the event of a product recall, thereby allowing employees to identify where the recalled items are located and retrieve them.

According to Hernandez, the technology has "created a revolution" for material management in the labs. "It's making my life more interesting," she states, "because I have so much more information." For example, she says, she can now track which products are being used, when this occurs and by which doctors, and can then approach those individuals to determine whether some products have become more popular, or whether they may no longer need to be stocked.

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