Irish RFID Healthcare Pilot Completed

Georgia Tech Ireland (GTI), the Western Vascular Institute and GS1 Ireland have completed a pilot at Galway Clinic to demonstrate the successful use of UHF RFID tags in a high-volume clinical setting.

Three nonprofit organizations in Ireland have joined efforts to develop a model for endovascular-device tracking that would include RFID technology and bar codes from the point of manufacture to the operating room. With that goal in mind, Georgia Tech Ireland (GTI), standards organization GS1 Ireland and the Western Vascular Institute (a clinical vascular research foundation) have completed a pilot at Galway Clinic, finding that UHF RFID tags on high-value implantable endovascular products, such as catheters and stents, can be successfully used in a high-volume clinical setting to improve patient safety and lower costs by reducing the risk of errors, out-of-stocks and product expiration.

The team intends the project, known as the Clinical Laboratory Automated Stockroom System (CLASS) Project, to provide a model solution, based on global standards, for more effectively managing inventory throughout the entire medical-device supply chain, from manufacture through to point of use.

With support from medical-device manufacturers Boston Scientific, Medtronic and Cordis (owned by Johnson & Johnson), the group began the collaboration in an effort to improve supply chain efficiency and reduce the cost of missing or expired items used in endovascular procedures. Improved patient safety and greater efficiency and visibility in the supply chain, the group believes, could help address the escalating costs for health-care services as well as meet regulatory demands, such as the Unique Device Identification (UDI) requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (see U.S. FDA Seeks Research for Medical Device Tracking System). The project's focus was on using the global EPC RFID standards to track and trace medical devices from the point of manufacture to the patient. "In order to be efficient and effective in data sharing, a common language of globally accepted standards is essential," says Jim Bracken, GS1 Ireland's CEO.

The solution trialed by the group included a single, shared database on a server that a variety of players could access via the Internet using software based on EPCglobal's Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) specifications, and the use of GS1 standard bar codes and UHF EPC Gen 2 tags. EPCIS software allows multiple players to securely access data on a database and selectively share that data with others. Georgia Tech Ireland provided the RFID hardware installation and software to building and testing the RFID system. The Galway Clinic provided the real-life setting for the system and GS1 Ireland provided identification numbers for the RFID and bar-coded labels, as well as technical guidance on the application of GS1 and EPC standards.

The research group's ultimate goal is to help members of the medical-technology industry, health-care providers and clinicians to implement RFID- and bar-code-based traceability systems and share data from those systems to make the supply chain and inventory management more visible. In that effort, they hope to design a traceability system that would reduce health-care costs and enhance patient safety by thwarting counterfeits as well as providing a view into inventory stock, thus ensuring that items are available when needed and that no product expires on a clinic's shelves. The CLASS project demonstrated that RFID could identify and track the movement of high-value endovascular devices, says Kevin McGuinness, senior project manager at Georgia Tech Ireland.

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