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Medical Center Set to Grow With RFID

After a decade of seeking automated tracking for medical devices, Southern Ohio Medical Center has deployed a Radianse system to locate its assets. The hospital hopes to expand the system to monitoring patients.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 03, 2008As with other medical centers, employees at Southern Ohio Medical Center (SOMC), located in Portsmouth, Ohio, have spent hours each week walking the floors of the hospital, searching for such items as pumps, EKG carts and wheelchairs. In some cases, the staff has also sent out e-mails seeking specific items.

On a monthly basis, the staff at SOMC search for and inspect up to 700 pieces of equipment. Of the items they inventory, most are easy to find, says Greg Malone, the hospital's supervisor of biomedical engineering. It's the 20 to 30 percent of items that are difficult to locate that had become a burden on hospital staff, he says, prompting the medical center to seek an RFID-based system to help it track assets.

Paul Tessier
In October 2007, Malone says, SOMC deployed the Radianse Reveal Asset Tracking platform, made by Radianse. Thus far, the hospital has purchased 2,500 Radiance 433 MHz active RFID tags and tagged 1,600 assets. Some tags come with an adhesive backing for attaching to assets, while others have a lanyard for attachment to the leg of a medical device.

To associate a tag with the asset to which it is attached, says Paul Tessier, Radianse's founder, chief strategic officer and executive VP, employees use a handheld bar-code scanner to read the bar code printed on the tag, which holds the same unique ID number stored on the RFID chip. The staff then input details about the item, such as its make and model, and store that data in the medical center's database. Tessier says the reusable tags include a replaceable battery that has a two-year lifespan if the tag beacons every 10 seconds, and six years if it beacons every 30 seconds.

A network of 364 receivers, connected to SOMC's server via Ethernet cables, has been installed throughout the hospital, spaced about 30 feet apart. The receivers can read a tag from up to 50 or 60 feet away, and can pinpoint its location with an accuracy of up to 3 feet. When three or more receivers pick up a tag's ID number, Radianse's software determines its location based on the strength of the signal. "We wanted room-level accuracy," Malone explains.

The software allows hospital workers to open a Radianse link on any PC in the building, and enter a key word to search for a specific item. They can also set up a "favorites" listing for any items they frequently look for, such as a wheelchair or IV caddy.

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