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Spectrum Health's Meijer Heart Center Tracks Stents

Using passive 125 kHz RFID tags, the system has raised inventory-management accuracy to nearly 100 percent, while also reducing the chance for missed billing.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 29, 2010Spectrum Health, a health-care provider in Grand Rapids, Mich., is using an RFID-based cabinet system to track its inventory and the billing of its thousands of stents that are implanted in patients' arteries each year. The system, provided by CareFusion and called the Pyxis ProcedureStation, includes four cabinets, tags on stent packaging, and Web-based software that integrates the hospital's inventory, billing and patient systems. Pyxis ProcedureStation is an RFID-enabled version of the company's health-care inventory-tracking technology, known as Pyxis Perioperative Solutions.

Since the cabinets were installed approximately six months ago, says Bob Karam, Spectrum Health's inventory control analyst, the system has raised the accuracy of the hospital's inventory management from approximately 95 percent to nearly 100 percent. In addition, it has reduced the chance for missed billing of the stents, which average in value up to $2,000 apiece. Based on this success, Karam says, the hospital may soon install additional cabinets to track other high-value items as well, such as pacemakers or defibrillators.

Spectrum Health's Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, in Grand Rapids, is the largest heart-care facility in the area, serving about 10,000 patients annually. Many of those patients are implanted with stents—a wire mesh tube inserted into a narrowed or weakened artery in order to help keep it open. The hospital must then track its stent inventory, to ensure there is an ample supply of each size for upcoming procedures, and that the stents are used before their expiration dates. Finally, the hospital must also make sure it accurately bills patients for the implanted stents.

The hospital has been interested in technological solutions to these challenges for several years, Karam says, and when its managers met with CareFusion, they learned the company was launching a new RFID-based product that could be used to track high-value items. The RFID version features 125 kHz interrogators and passive tags that utilize a proprietary RFID air-interface protocol. According to Karam, Spectrum Health and CareFusion agreed to beta-test the solution, which would then transition into a full deployment if it was determined to be successful. The hospital initially received the system at no cost, but now pays for all new tags. Pyxis ProcedureStation is an RFID-based extension of an existing software platform designed to manage medications and supplies throughout hospitals, says Rusty Frantz, Pyxis Perioperative Solutions' VP and general manager.

To begin testing the RFID technology, Spectrum Health installed four Pyxis ProcedureStation cabinets in its catheter lab, where stents are stored prior to use in patients. CareFusion also provided the hospital with an "associator"—a bar-code scanner used to input data about the device into the system. When a new stent is received at the facility, a cath lab inventory worker attaches an adhesive 125 kHz RFID label to the cardboard container. The label comes printed with a bar-coded ID number that is also encoded to the label's RFID tag.

The worker places the container into the associator, which reads the label's RFID tag and scans a bar-coded number that had been printed on the packaging by the vendor. The associator creates a single, unique identification number that marries the item's RFID and bar-coded numbers. This unique ID lives with the item throughout its lifecycle at the hospital. The associator, via an Ethernet connection to the Internet, then retrieves product information from a Universal Tag Registry (UTR), which runs on a central server hosted and managed by CareFusion. Such data includes the product's vendor, manufacturing and expiration dates, lot number and size.

The item is then placed into one of the RFID cabinets, which are approximately 80 inches high, 31 inches wide and 28 inches deep. The cabinet has four built-in RFID interrogators, with one antenna for each reader, to capture the unique ID number on each RFID label. The readers send those ID numbers to the server via an Ethernet cable, indicating when each item was placed in which cabinet.

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