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RFID Goes to Medical School

The Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, in Texas, is saving time and money by tracking state-of-the-art equipment used to enhance learning.
By Bob Violino
Oct 19, 2010—The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) is a six-school institution established to provide health-care education, patient care and clinical research. At its Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, located in El Paso, the Advanced Teaching and Assessment in Clinical Simulation Center (ATACS) features state-of-the-art equipment used to enhance learning. Many items at the facility—including laptop computers, projectors, stethoscopes, mannequins, skeletons, IV pumps and EKG monitors—are mobile, and some are expensive.

The Paul L. Foster School of Medicine
Whenever a new asset was delivered to the school, information regarding that item was manually entered into a database, and the asset was then placed in a particular room for use by a teacher or student, or was moved into storage. Locating and tracking items after they were logged into the system was difficult, says J. Hector Aranda, the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine's unit manager of clinical simulation. "We had to remember who used it last, or where it was last seen," he explains. "When having to take inventory, a spreadsheet was printed out, and it was like a treasure hunt trying to find numerous assets." As a result, the inventory process typically took several days, if not weeks.

To improve its inventory-management process, reduce the time needed to locate assets used for teaching and training, and cut losses due to theft and other reasons, the school's managers decided they needed a technology-based solution. At first, they considered employing bar-code technology, but that was deemed inadequate for what the institution hoped to achieve. "The problem with a bar-code reader is having a line of site in order for the scanner to read the tag," Aranda says. "This would take a lot of time, since each individual tag would have to be physically read."

So the school looked into RFID technology, and decided it would be more suitable. In fall 2009, an RFID system provided by Radiant RFID, in Austin, Texas, was deployed to manage inventory and track assets used at ATACS. When the system was installed, Aranda's team began applying tags to existing items. The process took several months, he says, with the group tagging approximately 400 assets during the first month, beginning with particularly popular items, such as laptops. The team now tags new assets as they arrive at the facility. According to Aranda, the RFID system provides significant process improvements when it comes to tracking the school's more than 1,500 assets.

The Advanced Teaching and Assessment in Clinical Simulation Center features state-of-the-art equipment used to enhance learning.
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