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Rady Children's Hospital Tracks Anesthetic Drugs Via RFID

The California facility is using MEPS Real-Time's RFID-enabled cart to manage trays filled with medications, with the goal of improving efficiency and patient safety by ensuring that the right drug is available and never nearing expiration.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 01, 2014

Managing medications used by anesthesiologists during surgery is as time-consuming as it is critical to ensuring that all product is available when needed. To automate this process of replenishment—thereby saving time and preventing any mistakes—San Diego's Rady Children's Hospital is among the medical facilities employing a medication-tray management system provided by MEPS Real-Time that employs passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags.

Rady Children's Hospital is a 520-bed pediatric-care facility affiliated with the University of California, San Diego's School of Medicine. Rady, the largest children's hospital in California, treated more than 192,000 children patients in 2013.

When a pharmacy technician places a tray of RFID-tagged drugs inside the Intelliguard cart and closes the door, the cart's video screen displays a list of medications, indicating if any are missing or are about to expire.
Each time an anesthesiologist removes a medication from an anesthesia cart and uses it, that drug must then be replenished—typically by means of a manual process whereby operating room personnel visually check not only which items may be missing, but also which ones may soon be expiring. The hospital has not measured specifically how long it takes to validate and replenish all medications within an anesthesia cart, says Ken Schell, Rady Children's Hospital pharmacist-in-chief, "but it's a significant amount of time."

The hospital sought an automated solution that could prevent errors, improve inventory management and optimize labor use, Schell says. The other concern, he notes, was a safety issue: ensuring that situations never arose in which medications were unavailable when required, and that drugs nearing their expiration dates could easily be identified and removed.

On July 7, the hospital installed MEPS Real-Time's Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management System. To date, Schell says, MEPS has tagged 17,000 medications, input approximately 200 trays (each with its own RFID tag) into the system, and trained dozens of workers.

MEPS offers several RFID-based Intelliguard solutions for the health-care industry, including a temperature-controlled cabinet and an automated dispensing unit. Late last year, the company released its Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management System, following a trial at San Diego's Sharp Memorial Hospital that lasted from December 2010 to August 2011 (see To Keep Drugs from Expiring, Hospital Tests Intelliguard System). The solution consists of an "all-in-one cart" (so called because it serves both as a medication dispenser and an inventory-management system) that stores medication trays and can be rolled throughout the hospital as trays are needed in operating rooms and other areas, explains Shariq Hussain, MEPS' CEO. The cart comes with a built-in Impinj Speedway Revolution RFID reader that can be used to encode new tags, validate the items on any given tray and provide details regarding which medications may be missing or expiring. MEPS Real-Time also offers its own adhesive UHF passive Small Tag, made with an Impinj Monza 4 chip and an antenna based on Impinj's B42 reference design.

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