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Carolinas Medical Center Expands Its RFID Deployment

The hospital has added 26 RFID-enabled medical supply cabinets to its cardiac catheterization and electrophysiology labs, helping it cut inventory costs and improve operations.
By Beth Bacheldor
Jan 09, 2008A successful, three-year implementation of three RFID-enabled medical supply cabinets has spurred Carolinas Medical Center (CMC) to add 26 more units—all to improve inventory tracking and patient care. The hospital's Carolinas Heart and Vascular Institute (CHVI) is using Mobile Aspects' iRISupply, a clinical resource management system that manages medical devices and supplies via RFID-enabled storage cabinets. CMC, an 861-bed hospital in Charlotte, N.C., is the flagship hospital of Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS).

The cabinets measure approximately 7 feet wide by 6 feet tall, and have glass doors through which employees can view drug-eluting (drug-coated) stents and balloon catheters stored inside, each tagged with a 13.56 MHz passive RFID label. The system includes 13.56 MHz RFID interrogators built into the cabinets. The tags and interrogators comply with the ISO 15693 standard. The interrogators scan the items' passive RFID tags, recording any that are removed from or returned to the cabinets.

CHVI's inventory materials coordinator applies an RFID tag to each item as it is received into inventory. The coordinator uses a handheld device to scan a bar-coded label placed on the item's packaging by the manufacturer before that item is shipped out. The scanned bar-code numbers for all the items are downloaded into the iRISupply system database, which correlates each number with a unique ID that is encoded onto a chip embedded into a label. That label (also imprinted with the bar-code number) is then affixed to the item's package.

In 2004, CHVI deployed its first three iRISupply cabinets, in a cardiac catheterization laboratory suite. Two weeks ago, says Dennis Chadwick, CHVI's technical supervisor, the hospital began using 26 additional units to manage more of its inventory of stents and balloons in other cardiac catheterization labs, as well as cardiac pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) in its electrophysiology labs.

CHVI opted to try RFID because Chadwick specifically wanted technology that could help the hospital improve its inventory tracking of high-cost medical supplies without requiring extra work from the staff. "I researched RFID because I was looking for something that was hands-free. I didn't want the staff to have to do anything other than pull something off the shelf," he says. "Mobile Aspects didn't come to me; I searched them out."

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