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Nutrace, Belintra Market RFID-based Surgical-Tool Tracking Solution in the U.S.

The Nutrace system, already used by hospitals in Europe, includes Belintra's passive HF RFID tags, Panmobil's handheld RFID readers and its own Stemato software for managing data.
By Claire Swedberg

Nutrace's software not only displays an alert in the event that a mistake is being made, but also stores historical data and provides such analytics as how efficiently tools and trays were cleaned and sterilized, the number of trays available at any given time and whether the quantity of available trays meets surgery schedules—for example, five knee replacement surgeries being scheduled when only three trays are available that day.

The company is now also selling a scale provided by Sartorius as part of its solution, so as to meet demands from regulators about the weights of tools and trays as they enter a sterilization device. To protect the chamber inside the devices, as well as the health of workers who must lift the items being placed within, a maximum weight load (such as 25 pounds) is specified for a single sterilization cycle. Users can weigh the tools and trays when they are first acquired, and that measurement is stored along with the the history of the item or tray so that when a tool's bar code is scanned or a tray's RFID tag is read, the software adds up the weights of all items and records the sum. The weight information could be used not only to confirm that weight limits were not exceeded during sterilization, but also to track when a specific tray might be missing an item if its weight is not as high as it should be for the tools it is supposed to be carrying.

Surigical instruments are identified by means of engraved 2-D bar codes.
"It's a really powerful solution," Vargas says. "We built a history of every instrument and tray.," This enables a hospital to monitor how often a tool or tray has been used, as well as link that tray to a particular patient in the event of an infection. For instance, if a patient suffers from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (a rare and fatal brain ailment that could be transmitted to another individual by exposure to infected brain tissue or spinal fluid), that condition could be stored in the software, and any instruments used on that patient would thus be flagged in the system to ensure that they are reprocessed according to appropriate infection-control regulations.

To date, Nutrace has had no customers for the RFID version of its solution in the United States. However, Vargas reports, the company is currently in conversations with multiple American hospitals about the technology.

Belintra, which is also based in Europe, opened an office in South Carolina in 2014, and is marketing its tags in the United States as well. The firm offers the Steri-ID loop tag (the model used in the Nutrace solution), which is attached to trays, or the Steri-ID instrument basket, consisting of a surgical tool tray (basket) in a variety of sizes with an integrated RFID tag. Belintra does not make RFID readers.

Belintra's European customers include GZA Antwerpen and the University Hospital of Leuven. Both Belgian hospitals are tracking surgical instruments via the Belintra RFID tags and Nutrace Stemato software.

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