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Source tagging gains steam in retail and medical

In order for RFID to firmly take hold in the retail sector, it’s imperative that products are tagged at the point of manufacture. Source tagging is becoming more common as big retailers issue mandates to manufactures and as vendors realize that they can benefit from tagging all products, as opposed to partial lots.

Source tagging is also spreading to the healthcare and medical sectors. Last month RFID 24-7 reported that Burlington Medical Supplies is tagging medical radiation vests and aprons during the manufacturing process. The company has shipped more than 40,000 source-tagged vests and aprons since Q4 of 2012.

The word out of this week’s Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference is that medical device and pharmaceutical manufactures are warming up to source tagging demands from healthcare providers.

Nancy Baer, the director of strategic projects in information technology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, says that the hospital now requires some manufacturers to affix RFID tags to certain products.

“We’re actually offsetting some of the costs of the tags to the manufacturers and vendors supplying the equipment,” Baer said during a panel discussion hosted by the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion.

Mount Sinai Hospital has tagged more than 15,000 assets such as hospital beds, pain pumps, heart monitors and wheel chairs. The issue of source tagging arose after the hospital had difficulty tagging pain pumps because the tags wouldn’t fit on the actual devices.

“We have over 1,000 PCA pumps that have narcotics in them that are encased in a lucite box,” says Baer, who is also vice president of membership for the RFID in Healthcare Consortium. “We had assurances from clinical engineering that the pumps stay inside the boxes, so we dangled the tags from the outside of the box. The next morning we found all the empty boxes but we couldn’t find the pain pumps.”

Since the tags did not fit inside the original box, Mount Sinai worked with the vendor to re-design a custom box so the tag would stay with the device. At the same time, source tagging was introduced to the vendor.

“If they want to do business with us [they are source tagging],” says Baer.

Further evidence exists that tagging is getting pushed downstream to the supplier. Pharmacists that have deployed RFID-enabled medicine cabinets like those offered by MEPS Real-Time, Inc., initially tagged drugs at their facilities.

However, Jay Williams, vice president of marketing and business development at MEPS, says that pharmacists are quickly pushing the tagging process downstream to drug distributors, who recognize that managing inventory and par levels for their clients is an important value add. Williams says that some of those distributors are already asking their suppliers to tag product at the source before it arrives at their distribution facilities.

 

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