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N.C. Hospital Looks to RadarFind to Improve Asset Visibility

Southeastern Regional Medical Center plans to deploy the vendor's active RFID system, which it hopes will reduce spending and help staff find equipment faster.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jan 30, 2008Southeastern Regional Medical Center (SRMC) in Lumberton, N.C., has contracted RadarFind to install an asset-tracking system that uses active RFID tags and interrogators operating in the 902 to 928 MHz range. The tags communicate with readers that plug into standard AC outlets and have a design that keeps both outlet sockets available for use by other devices. The hospital hopes the system can help it reduce its spending.

David Sumner, SRMC's VP of strategic management and support services, says the hospital currently relies on employees taking periodic manual inventory of important devices such as wheelchairs and infusion pumps. But that system takes too much time and produces erroneous data, he says, since many assets can not be easily located and, thus, might not be counted. As a result, superfluous replacement equipment might be ordered.

RadarFind's RFID readers have a pass-through design that keeps an outlet's sockets available for use by other devices.

"Our impetus is to have more timely, accurate assessments [of inventory levels]," Sumner says. "That will minimize the challenge of performing inventory" and reduce equipment costs. But another important goal in deploying the system, he adds, is to minimize the frustrations caregivers, clinical technicians and other staff members feel when they are unable to quickly locate a piece of equipment. "If a nurse needs a piece of equipment, I don't want [her] to spend an hour looking for it."

In 2006, Wayne Memorial Hospital, a 316-bed facility in Goldsboro, N.C., deployed RadarFind's system and was able to save more than $300,000 in equipment expenses within a year of installation (see At Wayne Memorial, RFID Pays for Itself).

RadarFind's active ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders use multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) communication. MIMO is a wireless communication technique utilizing multiple analog signal paths among multiple antennas to transmit and receive data. The interrogators' range can be set from 3 to 150 feet. Once they receive tag data, the readers pass that information up to devices that RadarFind calls collectors. Typically, one collector is installed on each floor of a facility. The readers can communicate with the collectors either by transmitting data wirelessly over the 902-928 MHz RF band, or by sending information across the power wiring. The collectors then pass the data, via a local area network, to a RadarFind server.

Each RadarFind asset tag is encoded with a unique ID number, transmitted by the tag, and also features a switch to indicate the asset's condition. When the asset is clean and available for use, a nurse slides a plastic cover to expose a green sticker. This also causes the tag to modulate its signal to denote that the asset is ready for use, so that personnel using the RadarFind software to view a floor plan of the facility can observe both the asset's location and its status.

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