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Implanet Tracks Implantables

The French maker of prosthetic implants, as well as the hospitals it serves, has been using its Beep N Track system to track product shipment and usage. The company is now marketing the system to other medical device manufacturers.
By Claire Swedberg
Implanet attaches a tag to the packaging of each implantable device after it is manufactured. Its staff input data regarding the device, such as its lot number, description and expiration date, into its SAP system, then scan the tag with a reader the company designed itself—using hardware from French RFID firm Tageos—linking that unique RFID number with the product.

When the products are to be shipped, Implanet's workers print out an order form, attach an RFID tag to the paperwork and scan the tag, which is then linked to the order itself. An employee picks the items indicated by the paperwork, packing them in a box that then passes through a tunnel RFID reader that captures the ID number encoded to the document's tag, as well as the tags attached to the packaging of the items packed in that box. The software then compares the ID numbers of products being shipped with a list of the products actually ordered, and confirms that a box has been properly packed and has clearance to be shipped.

When a hospital receives the shipment, its staff uses a MobiPad M3+ handheld PDA and RFID reader, provided by French RFID technology firm Maintag, with built-in Implanet software, to read the ID number of each item as it is unpacked. The PDA can then be plugged into the hospital's local area network (LAN), in order to upload data about that item. The hospital can send information to Implanet's back-end server via the Internet, alerting the company that the item has been received. The PDAs do not transmit via a Wi-Fi connection, Grenier says, because Implanet wanted to ensure the system would not interfere with other hospital transmissions, and that the PDA data would be secure.

When a surgeon uses the item on a patient, a hospital staff member scans the ID number on the packaging, then inputs such data as the surgeon's name, as well as the patient's name, age, gender and health details. Personnel can then upload the data to the Implanet server. If another implantable product needs to be ordered, the system asks the user to press a prompt in order to request a replacement. Billing is also conducted at this time, once the device has been implanted, with Implanet utilizing the data from the transmission to create its invoice.

This summer, the company began developing a version of the Beep N Track system to sell to other medical device manufacturers. According to Grenier, two device manufacturers have currently signed a contract to begin employing the solution in 2010. He expects the companies, as well as his own, to eventually begin providing the RFID capabilities outside of France—to hospitals in Germany, the United States and eventually globally.

Since the system went live for Implanet in April 2008, there have been no packing errors, Grenier reports. What's more, he says, it reduces time wasted by hospital employees who might otherwise input data by hand, or order parts that need not be replenished.

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