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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
"This was huge, because it gave us accurate consumption," Sheridan said. "We were ordering exactly what we needed, when we needed it. Reordered items came to the back of the hospital at 8 a.m. next morning, and were delivered by 10 a.m. to the department. They were then tagged and put in an RFID-enabled cabinet. That shortened our life cycle by a day and a half. It was pretty amazing stuff, and our inventory managers were thrilled at that point."

Over the past few years, MGH added 22 cabinets within its IR labs, as well as 35 units in operating rooms and three in the MGH Bone Bank. It also installed 10 wall-mounted consoles equipped with RFID and bar-code readers for tracking orthopedic supplies.

For phase three, the team began talking to staff members regarding where RFID could deliver greater benefits. For example, billing personnel must take a dictation for a given patient—a record of everything performed on that individual—and type the information into a billing system. This creates errors, Sheridan said, since workers may write down the wrong serial number or lot number on paper-based patient logs, and they sometimes make errors when transcribing information into the billing system.

The team set up a separate workstation and created an interface that sent information about products consumed directly to the dictation. Physicians could remove anything taken out of a cabinet but not used, or just sign off on it if everything was in order. As soon as the doctor signed off on the products used, the system would send a message to the radiology information system, enabling the billing department to see exactly what was consumed, whether it was chargeable or not chargeable, the price and so forth.

"So we brought clinical people, end users, technologists, administrators, coding and billing people, and the physicians" into the system, Sheridan reported. "We touched the five different work forces to make the transaction involved with one patient happen. It was a pretty amazing thing for us."

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