A new way to track medication in crash cart kits

July 15, 2012

At the University of Maryland Medical Center, a radio-frequency identification tagging system now performs time-consuming checks previously done manually by pharmacists and pharmacy techs

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore has freed up considerable pharmacist and pharmacy technician time by implementing a new radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagging system.

In place since April, the 850-bed UMMC is the first hospital in the United States to utilize Kit Check's RFID tags to track medications in its crash cart kits and other surgical kits. At UMMC, all emergency department medical kits have an RFID tag attached. In addition, each drug in the kit – 70 or more in some kits – includes an RFID tag embedded with the drug's name, its national drug code (NDC) number, lot number, and its expiration date.

When kits are returned to the medical center's central pharmacy, they are placed into the Kit Check scanning station. The system identifies items that need to be replaced because they were used or will be expiring soon. If a pharmacist or tech mistakenly places the wrong drug in the kit, the system alerts him or her that the drug's NDC number does not match the NDC number that is supposed to be in the kit.

"A pharmacist or technician would have to look at 70 or more drugs in each kit, then a second pharmacist would have to go back and check for validation. It was a cumbersome and lengthy process – about 20 minutes per tray," Shepardson said.

A warning on drug expirations

UMMC pharmacists have assigned the Kit Check software to notify staff when a medication in the kit is within 60 days of expiring. The software also helps pharmacists and pharmacy technicians track down specific medications. "If a drug is recalled, I can see which tray the drug is in. In the past, we would have to visually inspect every tray," Shepardson said.

Since the RFID system was implemented, pharmacists have more time for "other clinical pursuits," according to Shepardson. "Saving that time so we can do more hands-on work with patients is really helpful. Also, the safety features help me sleep at night," Shepardson said.

In the future, UMMC plans to roll out the RFID tags to kits in other areas of the hospital; for example, kits for specific operating room procedures, such as liver transplants.