Surgical supplies managed by RFID

A hospital is using RFID to manage patient specific surgical supplies.
Home / Health Care / Barcelona Hospital’s Surgical Supplies Managed Via Smart Cabinet

Consorci Sanitari de l’Anoia (Health Consortium of Anoia), a hospital located in the city of Igualada, in Spain’s Barcelona province, has deployed an RFID asset tracking solution known as the Dyane SmartCabinet to track high-value products used in surgery, thereby ensuring that the facility’s inventory count is always up to date, and that no product expires before use. The system also provides traceability regarding which items were used for which particular patients, and prevents clerical errors related to manually tracking goods. Palex will soon roll out the same solution at seven other, unrelated Spanish hospitals, according to Diana Roca, the marketing manager of Palex Medical’s hospital automation division.

RFID will help with traceability of surgical supplies and lower costs

The Health Consortium of Anoia did not respond to requests for comment, but Roca indicates that prior to installing the cabinet this summer, the hospital managed surgical equipment and its use on patients manually. Tracking this information via paperwork is not foolproof, she says, since it requires several steps of manual effort by staff members. If surgical products are removed from shelves and used during an operation, a worker must create paperwork documenting that event, and attach the labels of each item used to that paperwork. The paperwork must then be photocopied, and those copies are sent to the ordering department to ensure replacements are requested. Failure to complete these steps could result in an item being out of stock at a time when the hospital needs it for surgery.

So this month, the hospital installed a Dyane SmartCabinet in its surgical unit’s hallway. The cabinet stores trocars, disposable laparoscopic instruments, pieces of mesh, laparoscopic staplers and other surgical items, all placed on trays behind locked doors. It can dispense these goods to authorized personnel who provide the proper password.

When a product is received at the hospital’s central warehouse, a worker scans the item’s bar-code label to capture the product’s information, which is linked to its expiration date, description and lot number, and that data is received and stored in the hospital’s server. The software prompts an RFID-enabled version of Toshiba Tec’s B-EX4 printer to encode an EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag. The worker then affixes the tag to the product.

Once an employee brings the item to the surgical unit, it is placed on one of the cabinet’s trays. The reader built into the cabinet uses an array of antennas to capture the ID number on the product’s tag, and to forward that tag ID to the Dyane software via a cabled connection.

When an item is required for surgery, a staff member proceeds to the cabinet and places his or her RFID badge in front of an RFID reader on the cabinet’s front, near the touchscreen, or manually keys in a password on the keypad. The touchscreen displays a list of patients due to undergo surgery that day. The individual selects the patient corresponding to the items that will be used, thereby causing the cabinet to unlock, and then removes those items.

Once the employee closes the door, it locks and the cabinet’s reader captures all RFID tag IDs. The Dyane software then compares that result against the inventory of goods that should remain in the cabinet. The touchscreen displays which items had been removed, and the software links those products with the patient name selected by the worker.

If the quantity of a specific product drops below a preset minimum level, the Dyane software can forward order data to the hospital’s management software, which then transmits an order for that product to the logistics department. If any item has an approaching expiration date, that data can also be displayed in the software, as well as on the cabinet’s touchscreen, as users retrieve specific items, thereby prompting the staff to use the product with the closest expiration date next. In the event that an item is recalled, the system can identify the patients on whom it was used, so that they can then be treated accordingly.

In addition, Roca says, the Dyane software can forward the name of the patient on whom the items were used to the hospital’s billing software, thereby making the preparation of invoices for each patient more automatic. However, Igualada Hospital is not yet utilizing this function.

By using the Dyane SmartCabinet, Roca says, the hospital hopes not only to ensure that there are no out-of-stock or expired products, but also to reduce costs based on the over-ordering of goods, as well as the amount of labor employees spend filling out paperwork. That reduced labor time also frees up personnel to dedicate more of their work to patient care.

Palex’s distributors are preparing installations of approximately 90 cabinets throughout a total of seven hospitals affiliated with SERGAS, the public health service of Galicia, Spain. However, Roca says, details of the installation, including the timetable, have yet to be determined. Palex has distributors in some other countries in Europe, as well as in Brazil and Mexico, and is currently seeking distributors worldwide.

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