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RFID Automates Safety, Status Data for Endoscopes

Olympus Medical Systems Group has released its HF RFID-based Unifia solution to track when a health-care company's endoscopes are used, tested, cleaned and processed before they are returned for reuse on another patient.
By Claire Swedberg

"We did a lot of infection-control research" as part of the system development, Klimas says, and found "that the required documentation process can be a very laborious process for technicians." Therefore, the company sought to develop a system that would make the tracking of endoscopes less manual.

With the technology in place, a hospital or clinic can enable business analysis to better understand inventory levels and when they should be adjusted. To that end, the software platform feeds the collected RFID data into Unifia's Infection Prevention module and its Materials and Asset Management systems.

Olympus's Carolyn Klimas
A user first places an RFID-enabled endoscope into the storage cabinet, where it is then ready for use. He or she employs the handheld scanner, which is about the size of an Apple iPhone and was designed by Olympus and built by a third-party manufacturer. That device can scan the built-in RFID chip on the endoscope to capture the unique ID number encoded on that chip. The scanner forwards that data to the software, residing on a local server, via a Wi-Fi connection. The software then updates the scanner's status as being cleaned, processed and ready for use in the cabinet. The individual can also scan or read his or her badge or wristband in order to link its ID number and date stamp with that action.

When an endoscope is required for a procedure, such as a colonoscopy, the same RFID reading action is completed, and software confirms that the device is being removed by a specific individual for use. If the endoscope has not been fully processed, or if too much time has elapsed since processing, the user will receive an alert on the scanning device, where management can view that event in the software. This puts steps in place to help reduce the risk that a patient will be exposed to any endoscopes that might be contaminated.

At the procedure room, another scanner is used to indicate that the room and endoscope are in use. Meanwhile, the ID number on a patient's wristband is stored along with the endoscope data, as well as the badge or wristband ID of the health-care provider conducting the procedure. A bar-code scanner can also capture the name of the health-care provider conducting the procedure.

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