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UCSD Medical Center Expands Its RFID Deployment

The teaching hospital estimates the technology has saved it $70,000 annually by merely enabling it to locate its IV pumps more quickly.
By Beth Bacheldor
More than two years ago, Hamelin began seeking a solution that would help the hospital track items. UCSD started employing Awarepoint's system, first in the OR department at Thornton, which has seven operating suites and 24 pre- and post-operative beds. "We did the whole second floor, experimenting with the tag," he says. That initial pilot gave Hamelin and his team confidence that Awarepoint's platform would do the job, and that it provided an easy-to-use interface that nurses, doctors and others would utilize. "We have a lot of [technology] systems in the hospital, but they aren't always staff-friendly," he states. "My big concern was how easy the interface was going to be."

To locate an IV pump, for example, a nurse can click on that device from a list of items, then view a map showing where all of the IV pumps are located in that nurse's unit (when a person logs into the system, it defaults to that individual's unit and creates a list of assets specific to that particular group). The assets are shown by red dots on the map. When a red dot is clicked, additional information about the item appears, such as its serial number.

The initial pilot also helped UCSD determine which types of assets it needed to tag. Initially, the hospital thought it should tag only its high-cost items, but it soon realized some of those objects, such as surgical tables—while mobile—really didn't move much. And the hospital also discovered equipment to be tagged that it hadn't originally considered. "Some things we ultimately decided to tag were not very big," Hamelin says, "but these were things that were often getting stashed, like the headlights and lead shields—things that don't seem like much but can delay the start of [surgical cases] and, ultimately, turnover of rooms." After six to seven months, UCSD expanded the RTLS to the entire Thornton facility.

In order to convince hospital management to expand the RTLS to Hillcrest, Hamelin says he had to create presentations illustrating how Thornton saved $70,000 during the first six months of 2008 by eliminating the need to rent IV pumps, and how it reduced capital equipment expenditures. Such a level of savings, he notes, "was more than enough to convince the CFO."

With both the Thornton and Hillcrest campuses covered with the RTLS, Hamelin says, the hospital will be able to track assets that move back and forth between the two facilities. "Awarepoint has a query we can run every day to see if there's equipment from Hillcrest at Thornton, and vice versa," he explains.

The hospital doesn't plan to stop there, either. Hamelin says he, his team and Awarepoint will continue analyzing where the system is not only cutting costs, but also improving workflow. And other divisions in the hospital, such as the security department, are interested in employing the RTLS in conjunction with other systems it has installed, such as security cameras. In addition, Hamelin says, UCSD is also considering tagging a variety of surgical instruments. "We plan to expand on what we've been doing," he says.

Awarepoint has worked with other health-care organizations, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which in 2007 said it planned to adopt Awarepoint's RTLS to track 4,000 pieces of equipment (see Army Medical Center Looking to Boost Asset Awareness). And just this week, Awarepoint announced that Tri-City Medical Center, in Oceanside, Calif., is expanding its implementation of the company's RTLS to track nearly 1,000 medical equipment assets throughout the 515,000-square-foot campus. Tri-City Medical Center initially deployed the system in its surgical department, and now plans to track infusion pumps, crash carts, defibrillators, specialty supply carts, microscopes and other items throughout the hospital.

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