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Tennessee Hospital Tracks High-Value Items

WaveMark's cabinets enable Memorial Hospital, in Chattanooga, to track thousands of implantable and surgical devices, and to ensure patients are properly billed for those items.
By Claire Swedberg
When an item is removed, the cabinet reader ceases to transmit its ID number to the back-end system. The WaveMark software thus determines that the product has been removed, and changes its status to "missing." If the item is to be used during surgery, it is taken to a surgical room where employees use a handheld WaveMark RFID/bar-code reader to scan the bar-coded number on a patient's ID bracelet, then interrogate the item's RFID tag, linking the patient with that product. A bill to that patient for that particular item is then generated by a health-care software application from MediTech.

If a predetermined span of time passes without the product being scanned with a patient's ID number, WaveMark software generates an alert indicating the item is missing and not linked to a patient.

Memorial has already saved money thanks to the system, Hardin says, in part because staff members find it easier to record a product's use, and items are therefore more likely to be billed correctly. The facility has also caught billing errors and thefts, he adds. On one Sunday last month, for instance, four catheters were removed from one cabinet but not used, Hardin explains—an action that was detected by the WaveMark system. Although the catheters were never recovered, because the system was unable to indicate who removed them, the hospital knew they disappeared on that Sunday—a day on which they should not have been removed—and it was thus able to deduce that all four were stolen. With that information, Hardin says, Memorial has now set up a locking system for the cabinet doors, with plans to install security cameras as well.

In another instance, Hardin says, the hospital discovered that two catheters had been used, but that the staff had neglected to bill them to the patients, potentially leading to a loss of $2,500. Because the system caught the error, Memorial was able to correct the mistake and bill for the used catheters.

Hardin says he is ordering two additional cabinets. "I'm trying to get as many things onto this system as I can, now that it has proven its value," he states. To date, Memorial has tagged nearly 12,000 items.

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