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RFID project helping provide outstanding patient care shortlisted for global award

RFID equipment and library

RFID equipment and library

A radio frequency identification (RFID) system, which will deliver substantial benefits to University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, has been shortlisted for a global award.

Developments in the Trust’s RFID system has enabled the labelling of 25,000 medical devices with 3,500 assets being tracked per day. This new system means that the Trust to manage change, improve patient care, and increase patient safety, all whilst facing the immense challenges posed by COVID-19. Once fully implemented, the system will be able to locate and identify up to 50,000 medical devices, 5,000 SDU assets and 10,000 IT assets.

The RFID system implementation began during the pandemic. Despite the associated challenges it proved its importance early on by helping track and locate devices through the many ward moves and the service relocations that the pandemic caused. In addition, the system helped manage the thousands of new critical care devices that were purchased, making it easier to manage infection control efforts by effectively monitoring where the devices had been to ensure any devices coming from COVID-19 suspected areas were dealt with appropriately.

The success of the implementation meant that the Trust was able to provide better care to patients throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so. The data provided by the system can be used by management teams to improve workload reporting and planning and there will be many other results that will serve the Trust long term. In fact, it is estimated that the potential cost savings from this project will be £4m per year if utilised fully.

This money will be saved across the system through a variety of ways. This includes faster ward audits which will take 90-95% less time saving £10,000 a year on manual contacts, staff spending 50% less time looking for devices saving an estimated £20,000 a year savings from technical staff looking for devices and up to £2.6m in labour value for clinical staff doing the same once the programme is rolled out Trust wide, and the tracking and timely return of loan items will mean a reduced need for hiring devices, saving up to £15,000 per year. Money will also be saved through improved device maintenance, reducing rates of failure and meaning fewer spare parts will be required. The tracking of the devices should also work to deter theft, reducing the cost of replacing stolen items.

Due to its success within the Trust, the project has been shortlisted in the top three for the Best Global Healthcare Implementation award at the RFID Journal’s annual awards. The winner of the Best Global Healthcare Implementation award will be announced at the RFID Journal Live event in Las Vegas on 19 May. UHP’s Medical Device Asset Register Developer, Alex Peters, has also been invited to speak at the event.

Antennae placed on the wallTalking about the project Alex said, “Our RFID infrastructure is being implemented to provide a variety of benefits to the Trust and has been designed to provide excellent return on investment, whilst being future-proofed for future expansion and development.

“We currently have 350 antennae throughout the main Derriford building, and there are already plans in place to increase this coverage both within the Plymouth site and externally.

"We also have several mobile scanners which can be used by technical teams to help audit, track, and locate devices. Access to this system will soon be rolled out Trust-wide to all staff, and we hope this new ability to easily locate required devices will greatly help clinical and technical staff alike, to ultimately improve the quality of care we can deliver to our patients.

“The team involved in implementing this project are extremely proud of the recognition this system has already achieved - and the benefits achieved to date - but this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what this system will be able to provide once fully set up and utilised.”

The ongoing implementation represents one of the widest uses of RFID technology in a single healthcare organisation. There is also potential for further expansion which could benefit multiple departments and provide more money saving opportunities. It is understood that currently, the infrastructure at UHP is the largest GS1-compliant RFID track and trace solution in the entire NHS throughout the United Kingdom.

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