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Hospital Lab Benefits From RFID Inventory-Management Solution

Saint Francis Laboratory Services automated processes, saving labor costs, reducing errors and freeing up cash.
By Bob Violino
Aug 31, 2015

The Saint Francis Health System is a Catholic, not-for-profit health-care provider in Tulsa, Okla. It's anchored by Saint Francis Hospital, a 1,112-bed tertiary center that includes the region's only children's hospital and level IV neonatal intensive-care unit, a 168-bed heart hospital, and a trauma and emergency center. The organization has more than 8,400 employees, 1,000 physicians and 700 volunteers, making it the largest private employer in Tulsa County.

A key component of the health system is Saint Francis Laboratory Services, which encompasses all disciplines of clinical and anatomic laboratory medicine and conducts 8.8 million tests annually. The department supports the diagnosis and treatment of inpatients, outpatients and patients referred from other hospitals or labs.

Providing accurate inventory management within laboratory services was a major challenge and goal for Saint Francis Health. Like many other health-care providers, it faces constant pressure to keep costs down. "In today's health-care environment, it is the responsibility of each person in each department in each system to use the available resources to maximize efficiency and the return on that investment," says Sharon Cox, Saint Francis Health System's core lab supervisor. "In the Saint Francis Health System lab, this means that all resources need to be conserved or reduced, including the total cost of lab supplies."

The lab was using manual processes to track supplies, Cox says, which resulted in high labor costs and was error-prone. Workers were spending too much time ordering and managing inventory; products were delivered to the lab with little or no notification from vendors; manual check-in and -out processes led to errors in inventory levels; frequent, time-consuming physical inventories were needed to reconcile discrepant inventory levels; and there was inefficient product usage and subsequent waste due to expired material.

"To accomplish the appropriate resource stewardship," Cox states, "our administration wanted the lab to move toward industry standard 'just-in-time' levels, which requires real-time monitoring of supplies to reduce the risk of stock-outs and the [resulting] inefficiencies." In October 2013, Saint Francis Health deployed an ultrahigh-frequency RFID inventory-management solution called Abbott Inventory Manager, provided by Abbott Laboratories' Diagnostics Division.

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