“In fact, when you look at care expenditures on home and hospice care, it’s growing in excess of 10 percent per year,” he confirmed. “This year, Medicare is going to spend $38.6 billion on home and hospice care. It’s projected that by 2016 it’s going to be $51 billion. In the case of a lot of pharmaceutical and medical devices, products have to travel further—they have to go direct to clinic, direct to pharmacy, or in many cases right now, direct to the patient’s residence for care. So there comes additional concern about ‘how do we maintain the integrity, efficacy and security of these products?’” Szwast questioned.
In support of that, providers such as TAKE Solutions also are starting to deal with the “full chain of custody” maintenance of a product as it moves from its customers to third party logistics (3PL) providers to wholesalers and on to pharmacies for disbursement to consumers.
“And so that is not an area that we’ve had to really worry about—once it left the shipping dock of our customer we were mostly done with our responsibility,” said Walker. “That is now changing. We’re trying to help our customers ensure that they can track that and know all actions that take place with their product and tie it all back to the serial numbers associated with those products as they move through the supply chain all the way to consumption.”
This could include knowing what transitions—from packaging to transport to receiving or repacking—a particular product went through.
In the field
Florida Hospital is one such healthcare facility and service provider who understands the pains of tracking inventory to improve product management and improve its supply chain efficiency.
To do so, in 2008 it implemented WaveMark’s clinical inventory management solution (CIMS) to track over 5,000 high-value items in the catheterization (Cath) lab and Electrophysiology (EP) lab, helping to optimize inventory levels and effectively track product expirations and recalls.
Since then, WaveMark's technology, which leverages RFID via its smart cabinets and Point of Service (POS) readers, was also deployed in the Ginsburg Tower, which houses the Florida Hospital Cardiovascular Institute that conducts nearly 15,000 advanced cardiac procedures annually.
WaveMark also expanded into the Cardiovascular Operating Room (CVOR), which includes a pediatric hybrid operating room (OR), interventional cardiology and electrophysiology. The expansion to the pediatrics OR marks the hospital’s most recent, as it was completed earlier this year.
“Without WaveMark, we would have to have two or three more employees and would probably not reorder efficiently,” said Rivera. “We have 12 cath labs operating at the same time. So every technician would be responsible for every item that was used on every patient and giving this information to our staff so they can reorder efficiently. And that’s not feasible—it doesn’t always happen that way.”
Even more significant for cardiology, having inventory to cover the extensive scope of the human anatomy is also crucial and adds to the demand of inventory management tracked by personnel.
“A patient can have 10 different vessels with different sizes,” Rivera continued. “So for every type of item, you have to have more than one size. And as we use one, we have to reorder. It becomes very difficult to manage.”
To alleviate this, the RFID cabinets provide real-time visibility into items about to expire, recall items or management of “just-in-time” items, e.g., items that healthcare service providers may stock up on in fear of running out based on past experiences. The WaveMark CIMS also enables the user to view all of the data in real time via Web-based reporting.
“Inventory in hospitals is a huge headache—and it is largely driven by a series of manual processes that require human compliance,” said Endicott. “The other big problem is that the frontline staff put in charge of this inventory really cares about something else—patient care. What WaveMark does, is we take the manual process out of inventory and we automate it with these smart cabinets. So instead of calculating inventory based on an in- and out-series of transactions, the system reads the inventory in real time to provide a positive read of that inventory on a continuous basis.”
Consignment is another problem in the healthcare space as most inventory systems are not always capable of differentiating owned items from consigned items.