Long before COVID-19, the healthcare supply chain was under pressure. The global pandemic added immense and rapid demands on the care required to fight the novel Corona virus, creating an even greater challenge for the supply chain, especially among essential-to-care supplies management.
Perhaps now more than ever, the use of solutions like RFID technology is increasing in commonality and demand. Critical in times of crisis, RFID marries automated processes with comprehensive data and sophisticated analytics, displacing manual and redundant processes that improve efficiency. Together, these advancements are empowering hospitals to make deeply informed decisions to maintain the highest standards for patient safety, such as:
- What supplies to purchase and from where.
- Where to reallocate inventory.
- Costs and risks of carrying unused or expired inventory.
- Billing accuracy.
RFID’s Role in the Medical Supply Chain
Technology, including barcoding solutions, has made great strides in improving efficiencies, including decreasing inventory waste and unnecessary supply chain spending. Yet, with demands from the pandemic, like having line of sight to inventory on shelves, hospital supply chains have become even more complex. This is where RFID technologies, such as HF and RAIN, specifically, can help.
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While barcoding works well, the physical effort required to scan each individual item manually is prone to human errors and can hold back efficiency gains on a larger scale for high-value medical devices. RFID systems, on the other hand, can decrease the likelihood of human error and capture data more quickly than when solely using barcodes. The extensive automation and data capture that comes with RFID allows much greater value – allowing for reductions in onsite time, labor, and human errors, decreasing the physical handling of delicate products, improving records of chain-of-custody, especially for cold-chain, tissue, and implant products; and creating better visibility into inventory and supply chain status.
However, as the need for improving inventory management for medical care expand, hospitals and Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) must also expand the scope of their technology and their utilization of data.
The efficiency and savings gains from a supply chain enabled by advanced, connected technologies promise to free up resources for improving patient outcomes and care. Additionally, because these connected technologies are often cloud-based, they provide the opportunity to aggregate data. Think about benchmarking – not just across individual IDNs, but across multiple IDNs and any geography. This means that providers can compare their own metrics – inventory turns, cost per procedure, etc. – with metrics from comparable facilities while keeping each facility’s specific data and identity private.
Improving Inventory Management with Connected RFID Systems
RFID technology helps transform data capture methodologies in the supply chain, enabling leaders to leverage the data as a strategic asset. The data captured can support things like:
- Predictive waste modeling and control
- End-to-end information connected and enabled supply chain
- Standardized processes across growing provider networks
- Enablement of Center of Excellence or centralized governance models
RFID tracking also helps providers receive fair reimbursement for the quality of care provided by identifying and managing “true” cost-per-case by supporting efficient data capture at the point of care. Accurate data capture, tied to the patient record, can provide infrastructure for analytics and insights that can help support decision making, including making decisions on standardization, helping to reduce the variability in how care is provided across the network, improving consistency, and helping to reduce unnecessary costs.
In studies conducted with customers of Cardinal Health WaveMark™ Supply Management & Workflow Solutions, the advantages of RFID are clear:
- Rapid, accurate readability of inventory
- Near-perfect inventory registration accuracy
- Alerts for identifying missing and unregistered items
- Reduction of missing (unfound) items from 8% to 1%
- Reduced inventory management-labor time to less than 1/3 of other methods, as well as time spent on cycle counting
- Decreased disruption to daily clinical (case prep) workflows; inventory staff and clinical staff can work together in the same space without interference
- Less product handling and less risk to product
- Better workplace ergonomics that include less reaching and bending in tight spaces while counting inventory
- Cumulative savings in the supply chain, specifically in inventory costs and other high-level business financial metrics
- Improved cost savings on inventory due to correcting stocking levels and ensuring products get used prior to expiration
And, perhaps the most unique benefit of RFID compared to any other technology is being able to physically locate essential items in a complex network of inventories and crowded spaces at the very moment they are needed.
Implementing RFID Technology
In an industry with competing priorities, gaining buy-in to invest in technology like RFID can be a challenge, so it’s essential to consider scalability and futureproofing at the outset. If you’re considering investing in RFID technology, think about the power it has to help along three dimensions of scalability:
- Across an IDN, from department to full IDN:
- Technology is becoming increasingly integrated into the healthcare ecosystem. As IDNs continue to expand and acquire more sites across the continuum of care, connected technologies are also expanding their scope.
- Across the supply chain, from manufacturer to patient:
- RFID systems can connect the manufacturers to hospitals, which allows for end-to-end supply-chain visibility that goes from the supplier all the way to the patient.
- Across the diversity of high-value products:
- Supply chain technologies are no longer just being implemented in siloed departmental areas for certain product categories. They’re being woven into the frameworks of all procedural areas requiring the use of high-value products including the Operating Room. RFID-enabled technology can help clinicians effectively store, track utilization and automatically replenish products more efficiently, with minimal need for human intervention.
RFID is a highly effective technology choice for tracking and managing onsite inventories of high-value, expiration-sensitive medical products, and RFID offers readily accessible, scalable value to provider networks as they consolidate and grow.
About WaveMark™ Supply Management & Workflow Solutions
WaveMark™ empowers teams to work together to enable better patient care by connecting healthcare providers and manufacturers to create clinically integrated, digitally automated supply chains. Aligned with industry best practices, WaveMark™ supports an optimized supply chain strategy with service and technology offerings that help support more effective patient care at the lowest operational cost. With WaveMark™, clinicians and supply chain teams gain the freedom to focus on what matters most, which includes enhancing the patient experience, increasing enterprise visibility to supplies, supporting clinical documentation accuracy, and enhancing the overall value of the supply chain.
To learn more about RFID solutions and additional benefits to automation technology within inventory management, visit www.WaveMark.com.