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Massachusetts General Expands RFID System for Inventory Management

The hospital plans to install additional RFID-enabled cabinets after the system has achieved a significant ROI in interventional radiology.
By Mark Roberti
Sep 17, 2012Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), the Boston-based, 1,000-bed teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, is expanding its use of radio frequency identification to automate inventory management. Robert M. Sheridan, the director of interventional radiology in the facility's department of imaging, told attendees at the RFID in Health Care 2012 conference and exhibition, held earlier this month in Boston, that Mass General plans to install approximately 40 additional cabinets (the exact number has yet to be finalized). The cabinets will be provided by Mobile Aspects.

The new RFID-enabled storage cabinets will bring the total number deployed at the hospital to at least 120. According to Sheridan, the decision was made after cabinets were deployed within the facility's interventional radiology (IR) department, where implantable medical-surgery supplies are used to support minimally invasive image-guided procedures, such as the insertion of stents, aneurysm coiling and angioplasty balloons. Thanks to the RFID system, he said, the hospital was able to capture an additional $2.1 million in charges that would not have otherwise been recorded over the course of a year, thereby resulting in approximately $1 million in additional reimbursements from insurance companies.

MGH's Robert Sheridan at RFID in Health Care 2012

MGH performs about 650,000 radiology examinations annually, and the IR department carries out around 15,500 procedures. In 2001, Sheridan installed a bar-code system to better track its inventory. The system brought major improvements—"we thought it was the bee's knees," Sheridan said—but about 20 percent to 30 percent of the information in the inventory-management system was incorrect due to manual errors, and inventory accuracy was off because, during stressful clinical situations, workers do not always remember to scan bar codes.

When Mass General's neurointerventional radiology (NIR) department deployed the first Mobile Aspects cabinets in 2007, Sheridan's team decided that 70 percent of the cabinet space would be allotted to the 10 percent of the items with the highest value, such as stent grafts that cost as much as $7,500 apiece, as well as embolization coils priced at $1,000 to $1,800 each. This would not only guarantee that critical devices required for patients would remain in stock, but also help ensure that the RFID cabinets delivered a return on investment (ROI). Lesser-value items, such as $15 guide wires and catheters, would be tracked via bar codes, as staff members had been doing since 2001.

To obtain the initial investment funds for the RFID-enabled cabinets, Sheridan said, he had to show management that there would be value in the technology. He focused on the six IR suites, where workers are often highly stressed since a patient might be dying, and looking for items would only increase their stress.

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