How Your Medical Devices Can Tell You When They’re About To Expire

A recent survey conducted by Cardinal Health showed that 24% of hospital staff have seen or heard of an expired product being used on a patient during a procedure (original article here). This comes as no surprise, as we have witnessed the usage of expired inventory at hospitals first-hand.  Without the proper processes and vigilance to prevent these “never events” from happening, this will continue to be a risk for hospitals.

While in many cases there may not be a true danger to patients from the use of an expired medical device – the expiration date is typically based on the packaging integrity, not device integrity – hospitals are still putting themselves at risk of legal and regulatory trouble if this is not properly managed.  Patients who later learn that an expired device was used during a procedure have ample grounds to file a lawsuit against the hospital.

Additional patient safety concerns for hospitals may result from poor inventory management practices.  As the survey found:

  1. 24% percent of respondents have seen or heard of an expired product being used on a patient.
  2. 18% percent of respondents have seen or heard of patient harm occurring due to a lack of necessary supplies.
  3. 57% percent of respondents have seen or heard of a physician not having the necessary product for a procedure.

Without the right systems and processes for inventory management in place, hospitals will continue to put their business and their patients’ safety on the line. 

There’s a better way: medical device automation

Most hospital employees have witnessed or heard of a patient safety issue from poor inventory controls. Hospital supply chain automation software such as iRISupply has been introduced in recent years to help clinical staff manage expirations of their medical devices using RFID technology.  This Internet of Things (IOT) approach reduces the amount of time needed to manage medical devices, and increases the operational efficiency of your department.

RFID technology allows hospitals to track expiration of medical devices at the item level. Alternative technologies like bar-code and push-button dispensers fail in this area because they can’t track expiration down to the item level without the additional manual entry of the expiration date at the point of use. This burdensome step is often skipped, meaning that expiration levels are not kept up-to-date and accurately tracked – and the busier the area, the less likely staff will be to complete this manual step.

Because RFID technology can track expiration down to the item level, it enables your medical devices to alert you when they are about to expire. Using intelligent analytics and customizable filters, a daily report will be delivered to your inbox that includes the list of all expiring or expired medical devices in your area. A manual task that used to take hours each week is reduced to minutes because you know exactly which items to remove and their exact location.

Depending on your relationships with your device vendors and reps, you may be able to get a credit for the return of an expiring/expired item, or they may offer an exchange of a newer item for returning an item about to expire.  Taking this step can allow a hospital department to realize a return on their investment from a system like iRISupply, and realize the many other benefits that come with medical device automation in the process.

To get more information on how iRISupply can automate your medical device management processes, visit Mobile Aspects website and schedule a demo.