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New Heart Hospital Plans Major RFID Operation

A 68-bed cardiovascular facility in Texas is implementing an RFID asset-tracking system to monitor more than 10,000 medical devices kept in inventory.
By Beth Bacheldor
The tagged items will be stored in several banks of three RFID-enabled cabinets, each about 4 feet wide, 6 feet tall and 2.5 feet deep, and each containing approximately 200 products. One of the three cabinets in each bank will also include a computer running the iRISupply software.

A nurse or technician needing to remove an item from the cabinet will access a touch screen on the computer to pull up a patient's schedule. The caregiver will enter a patient’s ID number (assigned upon admission), then swipe a magnetic-striped employee badge through a reader to open the cabinet and remove any items the patient needs.

The cabinets’ RFID readers will detect when an item is removed, and that information—combined with the patient’s and caregiver’s names—will be passed along to the iRISupply database.

Brad Morgan, the Heart Hospital’s director of materials management, says the iRISupply database will be linked via software interfaces to two critical hospital applications: a patient-billing system from GE Healthcare and a materials-management information system created by Lawson Software.

In addition to improving the inventory-management and billing processes, Valentine explains, the RFID system will also help in the event of a product recall. “Without a system like this, it is very difficult and extremely time-consuming to create a list and log of patients that may have a device that has been recalled,” he says. But with iRISupply, “if we get a recall from any major manufacturer of any of the supplies we stock, Brad can easily go into the database, enter the inventory number from the manufacturer and pull out a log of every patient that has had that device put in—in a minute. That brings new light into patient safety in the health-care industry.”

The Heart Hospital will begin implementing the RFID system next month, installing the servers and equipment and performing testing. The full system is expected to be up and running by July. Valentine says he’s currently talking with some of the medical-equipment manufacturers to enlist their participation in an RFID trial, so that the manufacturers will affix RFID tags to the items before shipping them to the Heart Hospital.

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