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Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital Tracks Trays Packed With Surgical Instruments

The Illinois hospital, which serves approximately 9,000 patients per year, is using an active RFID-based real-time location system to track and find trays assembled for specific procedures.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 23, 2009Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital (AGSH), a 340-bed acute-care facility located in Downers Grove, Ill., is installing a real-time location system (RTLS) that leverages active RFID and workflow software to help track surgical instruments that have been packaged onto trays in preparation for surgical operations.

The system includes real-time workflow automation and tracking software from Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS), headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., and active RFID tags and readers from Awarepoint.

The RTLS implementation is part of a $45 million overhaul the hospital launched approximately four years ago to replace and refurbish its surgical department, which is now a 50,000-square-foot pavilion containing 15 operating suites, a number of private recovery bays and a centralized sterile processing department. "As part of this project," says Peggy Guastella, AGSH's director of surgical services, "we wanted to be sure that we looked at technology that would help us be more efficient, and instrument tracking is part of that journey."

Awarepoint's RTLS leverages reusable active RFID tags that can be sterilized—an important requirement for AGSH, since all devices and equipment moved into an operating suite must be sterile. "We looked at [RFID] technology several years ago, but it didn't quite meet our needs at the time," Guastella explains. "We need these tracing buttons, or tags, to be autoclavable—meaning they can be sterilized."

Awarepoint's tag, unveiled about one year ago, is designed to withstand steam autoclave cycles at temperatures of up to 135 degrees Celsius (275 degrees Fahrenheit), as well as common liquid sterilization methods, the company reports. The tag measures less than 1.5 inches in width and length, and can remain on assets as they undergo sterilization, thus enabling hospitals and health-care organizations to monitor the sterilization process.

According to Stephen Armstrong, PCTS' VP of marketing, AGSH is expected to begin employing 150 of the tags this month, to track metal surgical trays of various sizes that are designated for appendectomies or other specific procedures. In addition, the hospital plans to utilize 40 tags to track various assets, including infusion pumps, surgical cameras and scope warmers (devices that heat endoscopes and laparoscopes to a person's body temperature, in order to keep them from fogging up during surgical procedures).

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