Using RAIN RFID to Attain Data-Driven Inventory Optimization

On December 9, 2020 we’ll be presenting at the “Engage Again” virtual conference, held by AIM and the RAIN Alliance, on the topic of how RAIN RFID technology achieves clinical inventory optimization by automating UDI data capture. At VUEMED, we’re passionate about the power of RAIN RFID to improve the healthcare supply chain’s reliability, efficiency, and accuracy to the point where the clinical areas can fully rely on it. The importance of the supply chain’s role in the ability of hospitals to function effectively and provide services safely has never been more apparent – the massive shortage of PPE that hospitals across the U.S. have faced during the pandemic being only one of many painful reminders of this truth. 

The Supply Chain Problem for Hospitals

There are tens of thousands of medical products needed for thousands of types of procedures and for very different patients with unique needs; as a result, there’s a tremendous number of devices and supplies on the market, many of which are stocked at hospitals to perform these procedures. However, these products are not necessarily being tracked inside the facilities or even to a specific patient, despite limited shelf life and being subject to possible recalls. Without accurate information about which items are needed for patient care, whether they’re in stock, where they’re located in the hospital, and whether or not they’ve expired or been recalled, there are tremendous inefficiencies and risks to patients. In addition, clinical staff commonly have to use outdated and manual systems to document items used on a patient, which leads to errors in medical records and billing, and distracts them from focusing on the patient. Any breakdown in the supply chain affects patients directly by putting them at risk. 

Additionally, the healthcare supply chain continues to be riddled with massive waste due to the failure of hospitals to have an optimized and lean inventory. Supply chain costs are one of the primary expenses for hospitals, and particularly impact institutions with a high CMI index, such as academic medical centers with busy interventional departments. Such departments (Cath labs, interventional radiology, EP, OR, GI/endoscopy) are areas where the majority of supply expenses occur, and where consumable supplies and implants constitute an essential part of the patient care process. Despite these high costs and the serious impact on patient care, most such departments lack tools and practices for effective inventory management, as well as the automated data capture needed to gain visibility and operational control over their supply spend and levels of waste. 

Summary of a Case Study: Putting RAIN RFID into Action

For the past few years, VUEMED has partnered with a cardiovascular department at a large academic medical center in California to help it achieve control and visibility over its inventory through the installation of an automated RAIN RFID-based solution. Prior to implementation at this department, less than 50% of cases had their supplies captured accurately due to manual supply documentation, and more than 50% of items on-hand had no traceable correlated purchase history. 

The RAIN RFID solution that was implemented uses UHF RFID readers, zonal and steerable antennas, and GS1 Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags that continuously and automatically track the movement and location of all tagged supplies without the need for human intervention or cabinetry. RAIN RFID ensures the accurate data capture of every item coming in and going out of the department, as well as used at the point of care. This data is then reported to the Cloud in order to be able to provide real-time visibility and trackability of medical products and supplies throughout the supply chain. The power of the Cloud lies in its ability to store, compute, analyze, and report tremendous amounts of data with easy user access, and to help turn data into actionable information. The ERP and EPIC interfaces that were put in place ensure streamlined processes for clinicians to capture and document UDI data, for supply chain staff to efficiently manage inventory, reorders, and expirations, and for administrators to monitor overall utilization, costs, and contract compliance.

Additionally, a set of monthly Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) was instituted in this department to track changes and trends in inventory levels, purchases, utilization, cost per SKU, unused and wasted inventory, items above necessary par levels, and other metrics. These KPIs are sent regularly to an oversight team of clinical, supply chain, finance, and IT leadership.

Conclusion: The Proof is in the Outcome

RAIN RFID technology, combined with smart KPIs, provided the customer with the hands-free UDI data capture automation needed to: (1) reduce purchases and waste; (2) optimize inventory size and composition; (3) reduce unnecessary product variation; (4) ensure product availability; (5) provide accurate charge capture and patient records; and (6) improve patient safety through effective recall and expiration management. Today in this department, items are being tracked from receipt to patient 24/7 with a perpetual inventory management system, data capture of clinical supplies for patient charges has been automated, and purchases have been closely aligned with consumption needs. As a result, expired items have been maintained at <1% of total inventory value, unused inventory and inventory above recommended par levels have been reduced by >60%, and billing accuracy has increased to >90%.  

RAIN RFID is an incredibly potent tool for achieving supply chain transparency and inventory optimization through the automated collection of essential data. And information truly IS power – the power to analyze and decide, the power to make changes and adapt, the power to succeed and excel. This project shows the great extent to which hospitals can be empowered through meaningful and actionable data, and how that accurate data can be generated in real time with automated RAIN RFID technology, and then analyzed and turned into actionable information using the power of Cloud computing.