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OM in the News: RFID for Tracking Surgical Implants

February 14, 2013

rfidWe note the increasing role of RFID (Radio Frequency ID) tags in our Process Strategy and Inventory chapters (Ch. 7, 12). Now, RFID Journal (Feb. 5, 2013) describes an exciting medical advance that will soon track surgical implants by placing the tags on implants and tools. The system, by Texas startup Innovapaedics, also includes a cloud-based server to store data and provide reporting to customers regarding the location, use and status of each instrument used during surgery, as well as devices implanted  into patients.

Innovapaedics’ 3-5-year goal is to offer a “Smart Implant” solution that would include RFID tags and sensors permanently attached to implants. After an item is implanted into a patient, its RFID sensors would detect pressure and temperature changes, among other events, in order to track a patient’s healing process, as well as the device’s condition, and transmit that information to a reader. In the short-term, meanwhile, the company has developed MedEx, an RFID solution for tracking implants prior to their use within a patient, to track which items were used on that individual. The resulting data is incorporated into medical and billing records.

MedEx also enables hospitals to track surgical tools. A tag can be permanently attached to each surgical tool, and the tag’s ID number is linked to specific data about that tool in the MedEx. As a new tray of tools is created for use during a surgery, each tag is interrogated as the tool is placed into the tray and linked to that tray’s RFID number. Post-surgery, the tools are cleaned and sterilized, and are then placed in a tray once more. MedEx  stores a record of which tools belong in that tray, and displays an alert if the wrong tool is placed there, or if a tool is missing. The software cannot only track the tray in which a specific tool is stored, or to which patient a particular implant has been administered, but also enable the reordering of inventory based on which implants were used.

Discussion questions:

1. Why is this an important OM advancement?

2. Describe other medical applications of RFID tags already in use–(see Chapter 5).

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