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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.
The scan is then checked against the order—which contains a surgery requirements list—to make sure the tote contains all the correct kits, each of which has its own individual RFID tag. "Instead of individually scanning each item using a bar-code scanner," Schaffler says, "the tote can be placed in the tunnel and all the tags are identified irrespective of whether any of the tags are touching or overlapping, or the orientation of the tag." The tote is packed in a box, which is also RFID-tagged, and that unique ID number is correlated with all the individual tags on the implant kits contained in that box.
"The key benefit of using RFID is that an entire surgery order can be scanned at once and compared to a surgery requirements list," Schaffler says. "If there is a perfect match between the pick and the requirement, the box is sealed and sent. The hospital now only needs to check that all outer boxes are present, rather than having to check the content of each box. In addition, we have placed an RFID tag on the box. This enables an association between the box and its contents. This allows nursing staff to locate a particular implant and the exact box number it was delivered in."
With the bar-coding system, the bar codes on the kits contained in a shipment couldn't be scanned once the kits were packed and ready to ship, because the scans were conducted at the picking station, prior to their being placed into a tote. "We needed a system to verify that every implant required for the surgery was actually picked and packed," Schaffler says. "In this business, a picking error discovered in the operating theater when that patient is on the table is not an option."
After all the kits in a given shipment are packed, their tags are interrogated to reveal the contents, which are again checked against the order. If there's a match, the box is sealed and shipped, and the shipment is documented. "The possibility of adding the wrong products to the shipment is reduced," Schaffler states.
Once products are returned, the tags on the implant kits are read once more to determine which devices were utilized. "When the serial number is detected, the system identifies which hospital it was sent to and [records] the returned inventory," Schaffler says. "We need a reader that could cope with accurately reading a tote of implants in multiple orientations, and the reader read rate had to be fast and robust."
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