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Medical University of South Carolina Expands RFID Solution

The hospital complex is tracking 20,000 medical devices to ensure the equipment is available when needed and reduce capital spending.
By Minda Zetlin
Oct 25, 2015

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), in Charleston, consists of four hospital buildings spread over a five-block area. An Equipment Distribution Center (EDC) staffed by six employees serves all four buildings. The EDC provides thousands of movable devices—such as infusion pumps, heating and cooling devices, pulse oximeter monitors and bladder scanners—to the various hospital units, 24 hours a day. Until a couple of years ago, its method for tracking all this equipment was entirely paper-based.

"Basically, we were having issues keeping up," says Dan Altman, MUSC's manager of capital planning and allocation. "You had departments calling in requests as they saw a need on a patient, and one of the six staff members was responsible for delivering the equipment to the patient-care area. At any given time, with that many devices, three quarters of the inventory would be in use, or en route, or sitting in a soiled equipment utility room waiting to be picked up for cleaning and reprocessing."

Medical University of South Carolina (Photo: Sarah Pack, MUSC PR)
With equipment spread over so many different locations, EDC staff members had no reliable system for knowing where soiled equipment might be waiting. They had to go from one soiled room to the next, searching for equipment that was ready to be picked up. "They were always backed up, and they would have time lags," Altman says. "We were having to increase our equipment inventory. It required us to put a huge investment into buying additional inventory to address those needs."

In particular, MUSC faced a shortage of bladder scanners—a device essential for determining whether and when to insert a catheter into a patient's urethra, and when it's safe to remove one. Though often a necessary, even life-saving procedure, it can cause a catheter associated urinary tract infection (CAUTI).

As part of a national effort to reduce the incidence of CAUTIs, the U.S. federal government and insurance companies were putting pressure on hospitals. "The insurance companies said that if you have a patient with a urinary tract infection that wasn't part of his or her original diagnosis, we won't pay you for any days they are in the hospital after that infection," Altman says. The immediate reaction, he adds, was for each of the 100 inpatient units at MUSC to request its own bladder scanner. Since these devices—after negotiation—cost $12,500 apiece, the total cost would have been roughly $1.25 million, which MUSC couldn't afford.

In 2013, MUSC deployed an RFID solution from Mainspring Healthcare Solutions to track and maintain 6,000 vital pieces of equipment, including bladder scanners. The system ensures that the devices are available, clean and easy to locate whenever nurses or doctors need them.

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