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RFID solution may be a game-changer for healthcare

As RFID gains steam in healthcare, a Seattle-based company is unveiling what it claims represents the Holy Grail for hospital facilities and the medical device supply chain.

VUEMED announced this week that a major Northeast hospital has deployed its VueTrack-RF solution for tracking medical supplies and assets. Relying on xArray and other technology from Impinj, and powered by the VueTrack software platform, VueTrack-RF turns supply rooms, procedure rooms or warehouses into a fully automated and hands-free continuous process tracking system.

The hospital will begin by tracking consumable medical devices such as stents and pacemakers. Eventually, the facility will rely on the technology to track assets and, ultimately, medical staff and patients.

“We are creating innovative and cost effective solutions with the Impinj xArray gateway system to enable hospitals to fully control their clinical

Lana Makhanik, COO of VUEMED, says her company's track and trace solution represents a Holy Grail for healthcare providers.

inventory, assets, patients, staff, and documentation processes while ensuring hands-free and virtually error-proof tracking of any item,” says Arnold Chazal, CEO of VUEMED.

The medical products industry represents a $300 billion market, yet the industry’s supply chain is highly fragmented and lacks traceability of items from the point of manufacture to the operating room. For every medical device like a knee implant, there are hundreds of complementary products and devices required during a procedure. The VUEMED solution, which incorporates always-on tracking from Impinj, enables item level tracking with a high accuracy rate. As a result, clinical staff no longer needs to worry about documenting transactions and are freed up to offer enhanced patient care.

“These kinds of supplies are of paramount importance for clinical care purposes, and they also happen to be very expensive,” says Lana Makhanik, COO and co-founder at VUEMED.

“What we are solving is both the clinical issue of ensuring the availability of appropriate items for a procedure, and the ability to make sure that as these items used for patient care, they are documented correctly so that patient records are accurate and complete.

The solution also ensures accuracy and proper documentation of clinical cases, typically a burdensome process for healthcare facilities.

“Supplies are a huge part of that documentation process, and accuracy has been very hard to achieve for most hospitals because it’s a very cumbersome thing to do,” says Makhanik. “Nurses only have so much time to do this manually, which is what many facilities do now. This is a technology that allows them to track all of that without any human intervention. It changes the game; people are excited about it.”

While the apparel industry is rapidly adopting source tagging, where goods receive an RFID tag at the point of manufacture, very few medical supplies carry RFID tags. VUEMED hopes to get around that issue by providing hospitals with tagging and registration stations that rely on VUEMED’s software and compliant encoding practices. The company is also working with manufacturers to install the tagging stations in their facilities so products can be tagged before being shipped.

The hospital that is deploying the VUEMED solution is encouraging its suppliers to tag goods at the point of manufacture. Manufacturers are embracing this initiative as a cost-effective method of supporting the hospital while adhering to 2013 legislation requiring all manufacturers of medical devices and supplies to become UDI-compliant by 2017. The hospital will use less than a dozen xArray readers during its first phase.

“The long term hope is that these tags will be part of the manufacturing and labeling process and will become a basic standard in the industry the way barcodes did,” says Makhanik. “We are working with manufacturers so they can see how they can benefit from the data that this technology will generate.

“The industry should have complete visibility of its supply chain from the point of manufacture to the patient. That is what we are trying to achieve.”

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