RFID helps to realize the automation of hospital surgical package management

RFID helps to realize the automation of hospital surgical package management


Yanzeo Slon

RFID tracking solution company RFID discovery (a paragon ID company) has launched an automated solution to help hospital employees fill the consumables medical kits used in the operating room to ensure that there are just the right medical tools for each operation. The system can identify RFID tags or barcodes on items prepared for each operation or items that are not used during the operation and need to be returned to the supply shelf.

RFID Discovery's applications and software will provide a description of each item option to ensure the correct medical tool is selected.

The system was first deployed by an unnamed large emergency National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the eastern UK in 2016. It saves clinicians and medical institutions seven or eight hours of labor time every day, and enables them to collect and return unused equipment for operation. The solution aims to make important but busy nurses, doctors, etc. not spend time managing supplies and equipment, but focus on patient care.


The solution developed by RFID discovery for NHS hospitals is now being commercially promoted to hospitals around the world. The company further developed the system to automate the collection of medical tools and supplies. According to the company, another British hospital is also being deployed, hoping to save the time of clinical staff and ensure that the operation will not be delayed because the operating room is not equipped with appropriate equipment.

Simon Dawkins, the company's RFID chief consultant, said that RFID discovery uses RFID technology as a tool to help hospitals solve the backlog of surgery caused by the covid-19 epidemic.

The traditional responsibility for selecting equipment for each operation generally falls on senior nurses and clinicians, who must go to the supply room to collect equipment before each operation. Doctors know what they need and will choose more items to ensure that all possible equipment can be used at any time during the operation. Return unused items to the supply room after the operation.

However, such a manual process will not only consume the time of nurses and doctors, but also lead to a large number of equipment in and out of the operating room, inadvertently causing waste or loss of equipment.

For nurses and clinicians, the focus is to ensure that all equipment required for each operation is available. This solution is designed to make the process of equipment selection and return transparent and easy to implement. Dawkins said, "we completely changed this process by establishing a system to guide medical staff to collect the equipment required for each patient's operation." the hospital uses software and applications to manage the collected data, and each item can choose to use UHF RFID tag, bar code or a combination of both.
Each newly received medical device or tool is marked with a unique ID number, which is encoded or printed on the label, and then linked to the corresponding item in the software. The software also stores the shelf data that should be stored for each product. When staff use RFID handheld reader or barcode scanner to complete daily picking, the RFID discovery application running on the reader will display the predetermined surgical procedures and list the items they need and their storage shelves. Then, the user can take the reusable surgical bag to collect the necessary items, scan or ask each label at the same time.

The app updates the list after each scan, and the reader warns if people take the wrong item. After all items are packaged, the application will finally determine the tool list. Users can add or remove some items through exception reports and write notes if necessary. Next, they will read the RFID tag on the surgical bag and associate it with all tagged items in the package. At this time, the system will print a label to associate the patient's name with the tool placed in the surgical package.

Then, the surgical package is directly transferred to the designated operating room, and the RFID reader in the operating room can read the package ID and confirm the received surgical tools. After the operation, any unused items can be put back into the same package and returned to the supply room together. When returned, the staff will scan or read each label, and the collected data can be stored to record what supplies, tools or implants the patient used.

"This means that everything needed for each operation is in that package," Dawkins said. "These data provide information for post-operative analysis. In the long run, we can analyze the items that doctors really need and have little effect." if some items are often added to the list of surgical items or often returned because they are not used, The system can suggest whether the hospital needs to update its purchase scheme. These data can also be used, for example, to track implants to specific patients in the event of a recall after surgery.

Due to the increasing demand for surgical efficiency, RFID discovery released the solution after five years of use in NHS hospitals. Dawkins pointed out that this may be attributed to COVID-19. "Because of the novel coronavirus pneumonia, there are a lot of backlog in the hospital, so this is to ensure that doctors have everything necessary for surgery so as to start the operation on time and deal with the backlog problem efficiently."

This solution also includes Paragon ID's UHF RFID tag, but it is generally used for specific use cases and high-value items. For example, low-value consumables may use bar codes, while high-value consumables such as implants or high-end devices may have RFID tags, and are usually equipped with handheld devices with both RFID tag reading function and bar code scanning function. The system also has the real-time positioning function of fixed reader or smart cabinet to automatically obtain the data about the inventory in the supply room.

A hospital that performs 55000 operations per year in 42 operating rooms is deploying the solution for all these facilities. Since its deployment, this solution has helped the hospital reduce the waste of £ 60 per operation by locating medical consumables and ensuring that they are not lost or idle. In addition, it saved clinical time and reduced inventory by £ 1 million.

RFID discovery pointed out that for many hospitals, the challenge of adopting technology is to break the existing hospital tradition and the awareness of medical staff unwilling to change.

Dawkins said, "This system shifts the responsibility from the operating room staff to the purchaser, which may cause some concerns of medical staff until they adapt to the new solution. However, many medical institutions may not realize how many consumables are wasted until they obtain the data provided by RFID. If even the operating room staff do not know which products are not used and discarded, it is difficult The hospital will not know these wasted costs. It is big data analysis that makes this whole scheme work. "