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Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin Tracks Asset Locations Via Passive EPC Tags

The Texas hospital is the first to use a low-priced solution from U.S Med-Equip that involves bar-code scanners, handheld UHF readers and a hosted server.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 27, 2012Memorial Medical Center in Lufkin, Texas, is the first customer to deploy a new solution that employs passive RFID tags for tracking assets. The system is being provided by US Med-Equip, which reports that its Star Trax system costs considerably less than real-time location systems (RTLS) utilizing active radio frequency identification tags—typically a few thousand dollars a month—and provides an opportunity for hospitals to ramp up their RFID application slowly, as their budget allows and use cases become apparent. The Star Trax solution is now being marketed commercially to other hospitals across the United States, according to Mike Pandher, US Med-Equip's IT director, and the company is currently in discussions with multiple potential customers.

US Med-Equip provides rental, sales and biomedical service of movable biomedical equipment. During the past three years, the firm has been developing and testing a system that would enable medical facilities to track their assets (not only those provided by US Med-Equip, but any objects of value), at a much lower cost than that of active RFID or other RTLS offerings. Instead, the system is designed to be simple to install, and then expandable as hospitals identify a need for more functionality. It consists of a bar-code scanner, an RFID reader, EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID tags, US Med-Equip RFID software (residing on the company's hosted server), and software provided by Radiant RFID for managing data related to locating equipment using a handheld reader equipped with Geiger functionality.

"Over the past three or four years," Pandher says, "we had been looking at the RTLS landscape, and realized there was a need for a solution that would overcome the barrier of cost. Hospitals needed a low-cost solution." Approximately 18 months ago, the company began working with Memorial Medical Center to test the technology.

The Star Trax system features RFID tags encased in hard plastic, each encoded with a unique ID number that is also printed as a bar code on the tag. The tag is affixed to a piece of medical equipment, with its unique ID and a description of that object stored in the hosted Radiant RFID software. Memorial Medical Center has attached EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags with printed bar codes to the front to its infusion pumps, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) pumps and portable oxygen containers, says John McAdams, a US Med-Equip's management specialist who works at the medical center on a contractor basis.

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