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Saint Luke's Hospital of Kansas City Saves Thousands With RFID

EPC tags and readers enable the facility's cardiovascular department to reduce inventory, improve billing and earn big discounts.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Now, using the RFID tag data, Strelow can see that the device moved from the CV lab to, for example, an operating room. The item's tag is read one final time by a reader antenna mounted at the opening to the wastebasket into which the packaging is disposed once the device is used. Armed with this information—which indicates the time and location of each tag read—the lab can easily associate the devices with the patient and surgery scheduled for the specific OR in which the tag was read, even no bar-code scans were captured during the procedure.

Because of the RFID-tracked system's accountability, Strelow is now able to post operating expenses based on each device's actual usage, rather than posting the full expense of an order, as was previously done. "With the assurance that charges will be fully captured, we can get purchasing authorization for larger orders," he explains. Thus, he is able to order these high-value devices in bulk, earning him discounts. "We recently checked in a $900,000 order of pacemakers and defibrillators. By buying in bulk, we saved 12 percent, or $127,000, on that order alone."

What's more, Strelow says, the ability to more accurately associate each device with a patient's bill—known as charge capture—has major economic implications for the hospital. Improving charge capture by just 0.1 percent annually represents $54,000 in billing that would have otherwise been lost to St. Luke's.

Eventually, the CV lab might begin employing the RFID tags to conduct inventory counts, which are currently performed annually using bar-code scanners. But until Strelow is able to prove to his accounting department that he can achieve a 99.5 percent read rate for the RFID tags when conducting inventories in the stockroom—a rate that he believes is likely when using a handheld reader—he plans to stick to the current manual inventory practice, using bar-code scanners.

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