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Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas Expands RFID System to Manage Location of Drug Trays

The San Diego medical facility is now using MEPS' Virtual Logbook, in conjunction with the company's Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management System, to enable personnel to more quickly find RFID-tagged medications when they're needed elsewhere, or if any are recalled or nearing their expiration dates.
By Claire Swedberg

The Intelliguard workstation has a built-in Impinj or ThingMagic reader and an enclosed area for trays, explains Shariq Hussain, MEPS' CEO and president. Scripps uses such a workstation to encode ID numbers to ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags made with Impinj Monza chips. Each tag is then attached to a medication, and the tag's unique ID number is linked to the drug's name, dosage, drug identification number (DIN) or National Drug Code (NDC) number, lot number and expiration date.

A pharmacy worker fills a tray with the RFID-tagged medications, places it the workstation's enclosed area and presses prompts on the touch screen to indicate the tray type, such as pediatric anesthesia. The workstation's RFID reader then captures the IDs of all the tags, and the Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management software verifies that the medicines are correct for that specific tray, and that none are expiring. (According to Hussain, MEPS custom-designed its workstation's reader antenna to ensure that all tags on a tray placed within the enclosed area can be read.) In the event of a problem, an alert is displayed on the workstation's computer screen. If the tray is packed correctly, the system stores that data and the tray can then be sent for use in the surgical unit or other areas of the hospital.

When a medication tray is returned to the pharmacy, a worker uses the Intelliguard software's Virtual Logbook function to update records to indicate that the tray has come back.
Once the hospital pharmacy had gotten used to the Intelliguard system, Johnston says, he requested an added function that would eliminate the need for a written logbook to be filled out by staff members when trays were taken from the pharmacy. With Virtual Logbook, a user who takes a tray to the appropriate location opens the Intelliguard software on a tablet and uses the device's touchscreen to enter the ID number printed on that tray and select its intended destination. Once a tray is returned to the pharmacy, a worker updates its status, thereby indicating that it has come back. In this way, pharmacy personnel can easily determine where a specific medication is located, which can prove helpful if any drugs on that tray have been recalled or are nearing their expiration dates.

When a tray has been returned to the pharmacy and needs to refilled, a worker places it back in the workstation. The Intelliguard system then reads the ID numbers of the tray's tags, compares them against that tray's assigned medicines and displays a list of all items are missing, expired, recalled or soon-to-expire. Employees then restock the tray accordingly with RFID-tagged medications from the pharmacy shelves.

The system does require some time be invested to tag medications. The time study conducted by the hospital found that it takes a technician approximately 14 seconds to tag and encode a single unit of medication, and a pharmacist approximately two seconds to double-check the accurate input of that drug unit. However, when it comes to the processing of trays, the Intelliguard Kit and Tray Management System saves 19.5 minutes, on average, for a large tray and 6.3 minutes for the smallest tray. These figures total about 1,500 hours of annual time savings from using the Intelliguard system for processing and approving trays.

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