Hospitals turn to RFID for medication replenishment


RFID technology in hospitals is far from ubiquitous. However, more and more facilities are adopting RFID technology in a variety of areas.

Since July of this year, Inova Fairfax Medical Campus in Falls Church, Va., has been utilizing RFID on crash carts throughout the hospital. Part of the five-hospital Inova Health System, IFMC was looking to replace the time-consuming task associated with replenishing medications on crash carts.

Prior to RFID adoption, expiration dates for meds were manually checked by a pharmacist or pharmacy technician who would then log the data in an antiquated paper-based system.

That practice, said Arpit Mehta, PharmD., MPH, Pharmacy Operations Manager, was tedious and inefficient. “There are about 41 items in the tray, 41 different meds. You would have to remember the quantity of each med that is in the tray and manually log all the expiration dates in paper form,” said Mehta.

With the adoption of the Kit and Tray Management System from Carlsbad, CA-based Intelliguard RFID Solutions by MEPS Real-Time, Inc., the entire cart is now placed in a machine that has an RFID scanner.

The technology recognizes if the tray contains adult meds, pediatric meds, or meds for the NICU.

“Once that it identifies what tray it is, it knows what the formulary is supposed to be and it matches to everything that’s in the tray. About 30-seconds later on the screen, it will display everything that’s missing – anything that is expiring in the next 90 or 60-days, you replace and replenish those meds – hit rescan an you’re done,” said Mehta.

He explained that the RFID process helps to eliminate the error-prone human factor associated with manually checking the trays. “We don’t have to remember expiration, dates and the machine prints a detailed report list of all the meds and all the expiration dates. It highlights the earliest expiration dates and the whole process takes less than one minute,” said Mehta.


How it works

According to Intelliguard, when a kit or tray is returned to the pharmacy for refilling, it is placed in the Kit and Tray Management Workstation where the system reads all product inventory and compares it against the precise PAR level (stock level) and formulary specifics of that kit or tray. The inventory is counted simultaneously-any missing, expired or soon-to-expire medications are identified, and a medication pick list is generated so replenishment can occur.

For the past two year, Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego has been using Intelliguard’s RFID system for meds on its OR trays, emergency drug trays, and intubation trays.

Quynh Vu, PharmD, BCPS, Inpatient Pharmacy Manager, said that replacing the manual system has increased efficiency and productivity. “The turn around is much quicker now. The results have been very positive. “It’s much more efficient and it has allowed pharmacist to focus on other areas, like dispensing new meds orders.”

Vu noted that Rady is one of the few children’s hospitals to embrace RFID technology early-on.

Mark Neuenschwander, a Bellevue, WA-based expert and consultant on bar code enabled medication dispensing, preparation and administration, said RFID has proven its value in medication-kit filling of crash carts and anesthesia trays. “It will be interesting to see how the value of chips may be extended as they are utilized for medication verification and documentation at the point of use.”

Anthony Vecchione is Executive Editor of Drug Topics.


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