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NHS Forth Valley completes successful pilot of wide-area RFID reader

RFiD Discovery has completed a successful pilot project to test read rates of PervasID’s pioneering Space Ranger 9200 RFID reader at NHS Forth Valley. 


The new wide-area UHF passive RFID reader was installed in the Medical Physics workshop at Forth Valley Royal Hospital, where repairs, maintenance tasks, acceptance testing, commissioning and decommissioning take place.


During the pilot a total of 108 devices fitted with a passive RFID tag were scanned into the test location with a handheld scanner. Individual devices were then removed from the room and later brought back in. During this process location data was recorded and analysis showed that every single equipment move was detected almost instantly.


NHS Forth Valley uses an active RFiD Discovery system to track the locations of 4,000 mobile medical devices with an extensive network of 170 readers in real time. The Trust has also replaced existing asset labels to incorporate passive RFID tags for all medical devices including beds and uses an RFID trolley to carry out regular audits. 


Location information from the new PervasID reader is transferred into the main RFiD Discovery database, which can be accessed by clinical and engineering staff. Bryan Hynd, Head of Medical Physics at NHS Forth Valley explains: “The main benefit for us is that clinical staff can now see if any of their equipment is in our workshop. Even though we tell ward staff when we take one of their devices, during a shift change this information is often not passed on.”


Whilst there is already an active RFID reader installed in the workshop, only 4,000 of the Trust’s medical devices are fitted with an active tag. The new reader allows NHS Forth Valley to automatically monitor if any of their 10,000 passively tagged devices are in the workshop. In addition, the tracking information provides valuable data for the Medical Physics team to show how long equipment has been waiting for repair or maintenance.


Traditionally, for passive RFID applications, gateway readers would be used to monitor the movements of equipment in and out of a specific area. However, there is a risk that tags are not being read during the short period as they pass through the doorway, for example if they are obscured by metal, water or other tags. The PervasID wide-area readers provide a significant improvement in accuracy, as they use a number of antennas to scan an area from different angles. 


Plans for the future

Following the successful trial, NHS Forth Valley is now planning to install a further PervasID reader in the theatre storeroom where surgical instrument trays are stored ready for use in an operating theatre. 


With trays often stacked on top of each other, there is no real visibility of the level of equipment available, and there is reason to believe this may have led to overstocking. The high cost of surgical equipment means that the contents of the room are worth several hundreds of thousands of pounds.


Bryan says: ‘Knowing exactly how many of each type of kit we have and how often each tray leaves the room will allow us to determine if we have too many of any particular kind. It will also highlight if there are some trays which are hardly ever used and may be redundant.” 


This will allow the Trust to reduce stock levels and free up resources. The ability to uniquely identify each tray will also enable the hospital to keep track of the ages of trays to determine when they may need to be replaced. More visibility will also highlight shortages of certain kits and ensure that required stock can be ordered in time to avoid any shortfalls.


Simon Dawkins, Senior RFiD Consultant at RFiD Discovery concludes: “We are excited about the new opportunities this cutting-edge reader technology brings to our healthcare clients. We can see particular benefits for tracking a wide range of assets and resources throughout the healthcare supply chain including medical devices, medical records, theatre inventory and patient flow.”