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Terso Makes a Case for Mobile Tracking of Medical Devices

The company's RFID-enabled hard case, known as a trunk stock kit, uses a cellular connection to transmit the status of the implantable items and surgical tools stored inside it.
By Claire Swedberg

The RFID Mobile Case is similar to a typical hard-sided case that medical device field reps carry with them, or that the companies ship, containing the high-value equipment required for cardiac or orthopedic surgeries. These cases can also be sent via carrier, such as FedEx, to a field rep's home, or be delivered directly to a hospital. In either situation, the field rep is responsible for the case and its contents, and provides those devices and implants to surgeons as needed for patient procedures. Often, the field rep accompanies the surgeon in the surgical room, and then consults him or her regarding the proper placement of an implant or use of a tool.

That same field rep is then responsible for forwarding information to his or her company's home office indicating which item was used, at which hospital, and for which patient, for the purposes of billing and inventory replenishment.

Joe Pleshek, Terso's CEO
The problem, manufacturers have told Terso, is that the manual process of tracking goods doesn't always work as quickly or accurately as needed. According to Pleshek, medical device manufacturers have told him that of the thousands of cases they may have in the field, 10 to 20 percent are unaccounted for at any given time. They could end up at a hospital, delayed for weeks, or a field rep may have a case but has not yet reported what was used in it. As a result, the companies often overstock the quantity of cases and their contents, in order to ensure that nothing runs out.

"Our customers have come to us and said, 'Could you integrate RFID into these mobile cases?'" Pleshek states.

In response, Terso designed a solution that includes the Impinj reader module mounted on a circuit board containing a processor to store and manage the collected read data, Kuehl says. The company incorporated its own custom reader antenna into the bottom of the case, and added a 4G LTE module to forward the read data to the server via a cellular connection. A rechargeable battery to power the technology is also mounted on the inside of the case, and requires a recharge approximately every two to four weeks, which is the typical maximum time that a case remains in the field with a rep. The battery can be swapped out by the rep in the field, or at the manufacturer's distribution center.

A medical device maker would then apply RFID tags to all of the items they place in the case, and use the cloud-based Jetstream software to link the ID number, encoded and printed on the tag, to the case based on its own unique identifier. The case is configured to read all tag IDs, and to transmit that data each time it is opened and closed, as detected by a built-in magnetic switch. The case's shell also comes with a lightweight RF shield to prevent stray reads of tagged items that are near the case but no longer within it.

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