RFID for the Healthcare and Pharmaceutical industries has been in the news a lot recently – from medical centers improving stock controls, to new proposed FDA guidelines, to studies supporting RFID use with biologics. Continue reading below to learn more about what is happening in this market segment.
In a post last week, Terso Solutions shared how they help medical device and biotechnology manufacturers keep track of their products at customer sites. Life sciences company Promega has saved nearly $2 million dollars due to the use of Terso’s RFID-enabled freezers and storage cabinets.
Hospitals and medical centers are also benefiting from using RFID technology. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) gained efficiencies with RFID technology and virtually eliminated the chance for human error when stocking emergency carts. When an emergency happens in the hospital, such as an allergic reaction to medication or a heart attack, portable crash carts are used to help patients. The carts contain equipment and trays of emergency medications. It is vital that the trays contain all necessary, unexpired drugs. In April, UMMC started using an RFID system from Kit Check. Medications in the trays are tagged with Avery Dennison inlays containing Impinj Monza RFID chips. Each tray also has a tag on it which monitors the medications that should be included in the tray. When used trays return to the pharmacy to be restocked, a pharmacist visually inspects the trays and removes any used or opened medications. The trays are then placed in the Kit Check machine which reads all the tags and notifies the user which medications need to be replaced and if any are nearing expiration. A process that used to consume 20 minutes of a busy pharmacist’s time can now be completed in a couple minutes. Due to their confidence in the new system, hospital officials are considering using RFID technology in operating room trays. A video of the system in action can be seen on UMMC’s blog.
Sharpe Memorial Hospital, San Diego’s largest emergency and trauma center, is using an RFID system from Impinj partner MEPS Real Time to manage and dispense inventory and monitor expiration dates. MEPS’ Intelliguard Automated Dispensing Cabinets rely on ThingMagic’s M5e modules, which are based on Impinj Indy RFID reader chips. In an eight month pilot of the RFID system, Sharpe tagged high-value, slow moving drugs with Avery Dennison inlays containing Monza chips. During the pilot period, Sharpe was able to reduce drug stock levels without having any stock outs and no medications expired unused. Because of the benefits of the MEPS system seen in the pilot, Sharpe is increasing the number of RFID-tagged items in the hospital.
A couple of recent events may also increase the use of RFID in healthcare. On July 10th, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed rules for a unique identification system for medical devices. The rules would require unique device identifiers (UDI) for medical devices using automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology such as RFID or barcodes. The rules aim to standardize device identification, reduce medical errors and facilitate product recalls.
Also this month, a new study reported that RFID is safe to use around biologics. The Parenteral Drug Association Journal published a study entitled “Effects of Radio Frequency Identification–Related Radiation on In Vitro Biologics” in which researchers blasted over 100 biopharmaceutical products with radio waves over five different frequencies, including those frequencies used by UHF Gen2 RFID, using power levels greater than Federal Communications Commission–regulated limits. The results showed no non-thermal effects by radio frequency radiation, supporting the assertion that it is safe to use RFID technology around biologics. The study was conducted by researchers at The University of South Florida, Blood Center of Wisconsin, Abbott, Georgia Institute of Technology and the Madison RFID Lab at the University of Wisconsin. These findings precede forthcoming requirements from the California Board of Pharmacy Track and Trace and others requiring the use of e-pedigree to trace pharmaceuticals, including biologics. Such requirements may be met using RFID technology.
Some pharmaceutical companies are already using RFID technology to track products. Purdue Pharma efficiently protects their high-value OxyContin product using RFID technology. Leading Korean pharmaceutical company, Hanmi Pharmaceutical, tags 60 million pharmaceutical products each year, streamlining their operations, preventing counterfeit products and maximizing traceability throughout their supply chain.