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RFID, GPS Technologies Automate Wound Therapy Pump Management

DeRoyal's Continuum solution consists of RFID tags and GPS units attached to negative pressure wound pumps, so that each pump can be tracked from the time it is assigned to a patient until that individual is finished using the pump at home, following discharge.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 26, 2018

Health-care technology company DeRoyal has released a solution for hospitals employing its Continuum UHF RFID-based platform, for use in tracking pumps that are utilized for negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT). The system leverages RFID technology built into cabinets, as well as tags and GPS technology—along with cellular and satellite connections—built into pump units to identify where they are located in real time. The solution enables the pumps to be used at hospitals, and to travel with patients after they are discharged, with insurance companies billed accordingly.

DeRoyal conducted an eight-month case study of the solution involving 529 patients at one Level One trauma center. The firm found that it could save the hospital more than half a million dollars during a one-year period, says Ryan McBee, DeRoyal's technology manager. Since the test was completed in September 2017, the company has released the solution commercially for other hospitals.

DeRoyal's Continuum RFID platform
NPWT is a therapeutic technique that employs a vacuum dressing aimed at draining a wound to promote the healing of chronic wounds or second- and third-degree burns. A pump, attached to an injury via a special sealed dressing, acts as a vacuum to draw out the fluids and increase blood flow to that area. Typically, the dressing is changed two to three times per week.

Administering NPWT at hospitals involves a complex process of transitioning from one pump, used in-house, to another as the patient leaves the facility. Usually, a single pump, permitted for use at the hospital, is rented to the facility by a vendor for inpatient care, while a durable medical equipment (DME) rental company provides a mobile pump unit to serve the patient's at-home care needs.

The exchange of pumps must be coordinated by staff members as a patient is being discharged, because any pumps used at the hospital must remain on the premises. Employees must remove the hospital pump, remove and apply a new dressing, and then install the new pump. Additionally, they must record the time at which the pump was at the hospital, for the purpose of billing the patient's insurance. Because workers cannot change dressings daily, patients sometimes require additional time at the medical facility.

Occasionally, pumps can end up missing, which creates an expense for a hospital that averages approximately $20,000 to $30,000 per lost device. It's not uncommon, McBee says, for a medical facility to lose three to seven pumps every year.

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