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Radio Frequency digitises hip implants

Theatre Sterile Services manager Aileen Derby with the new scanner at Waikato Hospitals SSU

In a world where we can be tracked through our phones or even watches, it seems uncanny that items can be lost.

However in a New Zealand first, Waikato Hospital has moved from the dark ages to the digital with an electromagnetic tracking device.

The unassuming cube of metal with a moving conveyor belt looks more like an airport security scanner, but its ability to read and digitally validate the tags of thousands of surgical implants in just seconds has improved both efficiency and safety at the hospital. 

The efficiency gains alone have enabled staff to get through more of their work and reduced the time stress to do it.  The tunnel works by reading a radio-frequency identification tag (like a very smart barcode) which provides a whole lot of information about the item.

Project Manager, Renae Smart said staff loved the new system. 

“It is very simple software, but it gives a huge amount of time back to the team. Something that took hours now literally takes a few seconds,” she said.

“The conveyor belt moves a tub full of products through the tunnel, which then reads the tag, tells us what the product is, its serial number, expiry date (so whether it is fit for use) and if it is what we ordered.”

Smart said the system leaves less room for error and has endless possibilities moving forward around process automation and accurate data capture.

“This is not new technology, however the way we are starting to use this in the health sector in New Zealand is new and evolving.”

Smart said the technology is being used globally in different ways. 

“In the Netherlands this technology is used to track diamonds.  In the States casinos use this technology to keep track of chips and in Australia they are using the RFID Tags in maternity wards to make sure babies are correctly matched with their mother.  The ability to apply this technology for tracking accuracy and automating functions is wide-spread and pretty amazing” she said.

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