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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
McAdams is responsible for managing assets, including pumps that are highly coveted by the staff since they can be misplaced or hoarded, and are thus sometimes difficult to locate when needed. Prior to the system's installation, he often walked the hospital's floors, seeking equipment that appeared to be missing. With the Star Trax system, he now automatically knows which items can be considered missing, based on their inactivity for a specified span of time, and can use an RFID reader to search for those assets more quickly.

First, when moving an asset from one location (such as a patient room) to another, a staff member (usually McAdams) uses a tablet PC with a bar-code scanner to read the bar code printed on that item's RFID label, and selects the location from which he is taking that assets, chosen from a list on the tablet's screen. The worker then takes the object to another location, such as the cleaning room, and again scans its tag's bar code, indicating where it is being relocated. That information is transmitted via a Wi-Fi connection to the cloud-based US Med-Equip software, where the asset's location data is then updated.

The software lists not only each asset's existing location, but also its location and movement histories. If a predetermined amount of time passes without a particular item being moved, the Star Trax system concludes that it is missing, and compiles a list of all non-moving assets for hospital management, including their unique ID numbers. Workers can then load that list of missing items' IDs into a handheld Motorola Solutions MC9090-Z RFID reader. The interrogator then begins seeking those ID numbers as the staff member walks around the hospital. When the device comes within read range of a missing item, it makes an audible sound, as well as highlighting that asset on the reader's screen, acting as a Geiger counter by leading the individual to the item. The employee then indicates where the item was located, inputting any change to that location if he moves the asset.

Since the system's installation about one year ago, the hospital has begun expanding some of its functions. To make identifying a location easier, the medical center is applying passive UHF RFID tags with printed bar codes to the walls throughout its facility, and is storing each tag's ID with the details of that area in the Star Trax software. When personnel locate or move an asset, they can use a Tertium Blueberry UHF reader with a Bluetooth connection to the tablet, or the tablet's bar-code scanner, to scan or read its RFID inlay or bar code and also read the wall tag, thereby linking the asset to that particular location.

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