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UMass Med Center Finds Big Savings Through Tagging

The hospital says it has trimmed thousands of dollars thanks to an RFID system that tracks its inventory of cardiac stents, balloons, pacemakers and other cardiac devices.
By Beth Bacheldor
Nov 21, 2007Using a hosted RFID system, UMass Memorial Medical Center, the principal teaching hospital for the University of Massachusetts, says it has trimmed thousands of dollars and countless hours of labor associated with its multimillion-dollar inventory of critical medical devices.

About six months ago, the Worcester-based hospital began employing the Clinical Inventory Management Solution (CIMS), a hosted RFID service from WaveMark, to help track its inventory of medical devices—such as cardiac stents, balloons and pacemakers—used in its cardiac catheterization, electrophysiology and interventional radiology labs. The system leverages passive 13.56 MHz tags; smart cabinets containing built-in RFID interrogators that read items on the shelves every 18 minutes; a point-of-service (POS) device incorporating RFID and bar-code scanners; and Web-based software to monitor, analyze and manage inventory. WaveMark, based in Boxborough, Mass., manages the system as a hosted service in a secure data center.

About five years ago, Kathryn Green, senior director for radiology services at UMass Memorial, began thinking about leveraging RFID to help reduce the hospital's inventory and maintenance costs. "I was very actively involved in the cath lab, in terms of working on cost-savings initiatives," Green recalls. "There are seven lab departments with lots of inventory, and we are always looking for ways to minimize inventory and keep track of inventory."

Until implementing RFID, the medical center had to manually count all the devices, record expiration dates, monitor restocking requirements and track the number of items used in each lab. Now, UMass Memorial has smart cabinets installed in its five cardiac cath suites, two in its electrophysiology suites and two in its radiology intervention suites, as well as one in a large stock room and another in a main corridor used for items requiring easy access on weekends.

UMass Memorial's supply coordinator affixes an RFID tag to each device when it is received into inventory, and waves the tagged device by a POS interrogator that reads the tag, as well as a bar-coded label applied by the manufacturer before it shipped the device out. The tag and bar-code serial numbers are then married to create a single product entry in the WaveMark system.

"Tagging the products is a very simple process that takes far less time than it ever did for the supply coordinator to chase down inventory levels," Green says. When the supplies are placed into the smart cabinets, built-in RFID interrogators read the tag numbers and update the WaveMark system. The cabinets and POS interrogators are connected to the Internet and update the status of all tagged products three times per hour in the hosted WaveMark system.

Every time a device is pulled from a cabinet, the inventory level is updated. As the device is used in a patient, a doctor or nurse waves the item by a POS interrogator that reads the tag and, in turn, updates the WaveMark system with the date, time and location of usage. The reader then transmits the product data directly into the clinical system, which correlates that information with the patient.

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