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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
"We needed to figure out how to use RFID to enhance what they are doing," Sheridan said, "so we mapped the current work process to find where we were losing data capture and, ultimately, revenue. We found we were losing 10 to 20 percent from missed charges related to data loss. We do procedures valued at tens of millions of dollars, so the amount was not insignificant. This [RFID deployment] is not about cutting costs. You are capturing revenue that you have been leaving on the table."

The installation began small, with five Mobile Aspects cabinets in a single IR suite. Stent graphs and other high-cost items, such as coils, were tagged using passive high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID inlays compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, and were then stored in the cabinets. If an IR technologist required an item, that worker would have to scan his or her RFID-enabled badge, choose the patient from a daily work-list screen on the door and remove the item needed. The asset would be automatically associated with the particular patient's record, and then be decremented from inventory. Ultimately, Sheridan said, the cabinet eliminated five manual tasks associated with managing inventory levels, including the process steps most prone to mistakes: entering product codes, lots and serial numbers.

"We had six neurointerventional techs, and we trained them on the workflow, and what we expected to get out of [the RFID system]," Sheridan told attendees. "We had weekly meetings with the staff, and shared with them the reports and data. We got them to buy into it and use the system."

Training continued for three months, and Sheridan's team began measuring the collected data in January 2008. Improvements in capturing patient charges led to an expansion of the system to 13 cabinets. "We outfitted the entire neurointerventional suite, which includes two full labs, a workup area and a recovery room," Sheridan explained. "That allowed us to have a full look of everything we had. We tracked approximately 1,400 products worth several million dollars."

The system was then integrated with MGH's PeopleSoft enterprise-management software. The team was able to set minimums, maximums and par levels for monitoring the inventory levels of items within the cabinets. Every day at 2 p.m., two inventory managers for that group received a reorder file that they could look over in order to catch any possible mistakes before placing orders.

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