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Children's Hospital Boston Joins Others Using RFID to Track Implantables

A growing number of hospitals and surgical suppliers are employing passive RFID tags to help them monitor the inventory and usage of implantable surgical devices, as well as to manage billing.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 05, 2008More and more hospitals and surgical suppliers are leveraging RFID to help track the usage, storage and inventory of surgical implants. These include knee replacement kits, neurological devices, tissue implants and other specialty surgical products.

Such tracking helps health-care organizations monitor the expiration dates of implantable devices, as well as maintain detailed device and lot data necessary in the event of a recall. The technology can also assist in tracking the implants to remain in compliance with health-care regulations such as those from the Joint Commission, requiring the documentation of patient implant histories. In addition, RFID can help ensure hospitals maintain optimum inventory levels and accurately charge patients for implants used.

Orthopedics supplier Zimmer attaches a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag to packaging of each implant kit it ships out.

This week, Children's Hospital Boston announced its implementation of an RFID tracking system from Mobile Aspects to help it manage and track its inventory of tissue implants and other items. The system, known as iRISupply, features RFID-enabled storage cabinets with built-in 13.56 MHz RFID interrogators compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. Hospital staff members attach passive RFID labels to the packaging of implantable devices, which are then placed in the cabinet. The interrogators scan the items' passive RFID tags, recording any that are removed from or returned to the cabinets.

In 2006, Biomet Europe began using Magellan Technology's 13.56 MHz tags and interrogators to identify items included in its orthopedic knee implant kits. Each implant kit contains around 100 parts, and the plastic packaging surrounding each part is fitted with an RFID tag (see Biomet Tags Its Orthopedic Knees).

Biomet has been using a tunnel RFID reader to ensure that kits are complete before shipping them to hospitals. When a hospital returns a kit, Biomet reads its tags to quickly determine which items have been removed so it can invoice correctly for items used and replenish the kit with the missing parts.

Magellan's RFID technology leverages phase-jitter modulation (PJM), which the Australian company created, and the tags comply with the ISO 18000 Part 3 Mode 2 air-interface protocol. "Magellan's technology is a combination of very high data rates," says Ken Laing, the company's VP of sales and business developments, "meaning that you can read and write to many tags almost simultaneously; eight separate reply frequencies that allow up to eight tags to reply at once; the ability to read and write to many hundreds of tags stacked, touching or overlapping; and tunnel readers that can identify tags in any orientation."

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