Cabinets Control Access, Availability of Tissues


Medtronic, Neoss, Promega, and others employ Terso Solutions�s RFID-enabled cabinet to track high-value tissues, reagents, and other high-value medical devices and drugs.

On any given day, Medtronic Inc. has more than 9000 pieces of tissue in the healthcare field. Tracking the inventories of these implants at various hospitals and clinics has always been a time- and labor-consuming endeavor, explained Medtronic’s global inventory planning manager, Ryan Butterick, during an October 2 Webcast. In order to obtain near-real-time, accurate field inventory reports, the medical device manufacturer added UHF Gen 2 RFID tags to products that hang on racks and installed RFID-reading cabinets from Terso Solutions Inc. (Madison, WI) in several customer locations.

The cabinets are ideal for healthcare products that distributed or sold at the point of use, Terso president and CEO Lauren Brown, Ph.D., explained to PMP News at RFID World. The company exhibited a prototype cabinet in Impinj’s booth at the show in September. Utilizing readers/antennas from Impinj, the cabinets readers can restrict access to employees with authorized badges and can capture the presence of the RFID-tagged item inside. Internal sensors can log temperatures at predetermined intervals, and if expiry dates are written to the tags, the readers can sense expired (or close-to-expired) products. All data are captured by on-board processors and reported to Terso-managed Web-based servers. Terso can then forward reports or alarms as needed 24 hours a day. “Every hour, every cabinet in the field sends information to Terso’s database,” reports Brown. “Only important information is reported to manufacturers. And if storage parameters are exceeded in any way, flags are sent to the applicable tech teams.” Two weeks of data can be stored in an individual cabinet’s memory, which acts as a fail-safe in case a cabinet loses its Internet connection, Brown adds.

Cabinets can even be locked or shut down remotely, if needed. In the event of a product recall, such control allows cabinets to remain locked until authorized personnel—or even the product manufacturer—can arrive to remove the recalled products, Brown says.

The technology was developed by Promega Corp. to track its own high-value reagents. Once it saw the cabinet’s wider utility throughout the healthcare industry, Promega spun off Terso solutions as a separate company. During the October 2 Webcast, Gordon Hamnett, director of global development at Promega, detailed his use of the RFID-enabled cabinets and freezers to distribute the reagents to research facilities on a consignment basis.

Another Webcast speaker, Adam Janette, M.D. of San Luis Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and Dental Implant Center, uses the cabinets to track consignment-placed dental implants from Neoss Ltd. “We can plan for anything, but if we don’t have material, we can’t perform surgery,” said Janette. “To make sure we had inventory, I was forced to spend a lot of personnel time on inventory planning. Now that we have these cabinets, we are better prepared while nearly eliminating overnight shipments.”

Janette adds that his center has “increased its utilization of Neoss implants.” The “progressive dental implant company is gaining a larger share of our business.”

Medtronic has dispatched the cabinets to track tissue inventory, temperature, and access.

Butterick reported that Medtronic’s field representatives are no longer manually counting inventory at customer locations. Instead, “they are in surgical environments discussing product use,” he said. The medical device manufacturer has also decreased its use of overnight shipments in order to replenish inventory for urgent procedures.

Given the special storage needs of most tissue-based medical products—and the urgency in identifying recalled tissues—technologies that increase field visibility may help manufacturers and practitioners minimize patient risks. Pharmaceutical manufacturers, too, may have similar concerns. “In many cases, manufacturers and users of high-value inventory lose visibility and product control just before the point-of-use,” says Joe Pleshek, director of business development. “Efforts to improve this situation manually will generally only lead to increased costs and reduced efficiencies. However, RFID-enabled cabinets provide automated visibility, reduce inventory management costs, and increase regulatory compliance.”

Terso’s cabinets are currently marketed in one size, but they can be customized with internal shelves or racks.

More than 500 of the cabinets are currently in use in the United States, Europe, Australia, and Singapore. Collectively, operational hours are approaching 7 million, Brown reported in September.

The Webcast, “Using RFID Cabinets and Freezers to Protect and Manage High-Value Inventory,” also featured Chris Fennig of ODIN Technologies, who outlined considerations to make before implementing an RFID cabinet or freezer.


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