NY med school improves operating room start times and throughput with RFID

SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY, has vastly improved its surgical start rates and operating room patient throughput, thanks to an RFID asset-tracking system. CIO Terry Wagner and Mark Zeman, associate administrator for integrated materials and technical support, discuss the benefits of asset tracking in a new podcast with HealthLeaders Media.

"More and more equipment is required for surgeries, and, as a result, it becomes more difficult to store that equipment," Zeman says. Areas around the OR are prime real estate, plus the university shares surgical equipment between the adult and children's OR suites, so they stash unused pieces in a basement or in other spare rooms around the facility. "It becomes fairly difficult to track the location of that equipment," Zeman says.

Prior to installing the wireless locator technology, the staff had to waste time chasing down pieces whenever they needed something, a very inefficient process. Tagging OR equipment was one of the first applications of the hospital's wireless locator technology. Now, with about 150 pieces of the most-used surgical equipment tagged, OR nurses take a look a their daily schedules, locate the equipment they will need and make sure everything is staged properly and ready to go for the patient's arrival. "They know that they're going to be able to find it. They don't have to wonder if it's going to take a couple of hours to track something down," says Wagner.

It's common for hospitals to over-buy equipment because nurses don't want to wait or spend too much time hunting. "Having the ability to track any piece of equipment in a hospital means that they don't have to horde things anymore. It is easy to locate equipment," Zeman explains. He also says that clinical engineers typically spend up to 25 percent of their time hunting for equipment. With RFID, engineering and maintenance personnel have an easier way of assuring that everything is fixed and inspected, according to Joint Commission requirements.

For more information:
- listen to the HealthLeaders Media podcast