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Charité CFM Facility Management: Item RFID labelling does work for sterilised products

Use Cases | By PR RFID & Wireless IoT Global | 17 May 2016
Item RFID labelling does work for sterilised products Item RFID labelling does work for sterilised products Photo: Charité CFM Facility Management

Sterile supply in Berlin

RFID for item labelling is always a challenge when used in sterilisation. Has the Charité CFM Facility Management found the ultimate solution? This article shows how it can work.

Over a long period, the challenges loomed too large. It was essential to be able to trace all the instruments used in the Charité. It is currently still not possible using RFID. The time and the cost of master data entry, labelling over 300,000 instruments, are still compromising the benefits. In February 2016, however, a system for detecting special instruments at item level was successfully employed in real operation by the Charité CFM Facility Management. Is this a ground-breaking step? Sadmir Osmancevic and Stefan Preuss, in interview with ‘RFID im Blick’, report on how RFID processes can optimise sterilisation.

Sadmir Osmancevic, Head of Department, and Stefan Preuß, Instruments Management and Central Sterile Supply Team Leader, Charité CFM Facility Management, in interview with ‘RFID im Blick’

Marking special instruments

“Barcodes on instruments are sometimes illegible or even come off. Serial number identification is also difficult”, says Stefan Preuss. Devices sometimes get mixed up even when their serial number is stamped or laser cut. “As a result, instruments may be serviced earlier than necessary or too late. Secondly, serial number reading is a challenge, particularly when devices are contaminated.” It was therefore clear that the non-transparent preparation processes needed to be optimised. “In the future, data from completely transparent preparation can also be used for exact medical examination and operation billing”, says Sadmir Osmancevic.

Product lifecycle accurately documented

In 2015, two parallel projects were launched at two different locations, each with the aim of documenting product life cycles accurately. “The two solutions from the two suppliers we tested are based on using miniaturised UHF RFID transponders, which were applied on the instruments with special adhesives”, explains Sadmir Osmancevic. The transponders are detected at the beginning of the preparation process, as instruments are added to the cleaning devices as well as in packaging prior to sterilisation. Antenna reader combinations are used that are integrated via LAN into the network. Staff only need to place the instrument to be cleaned in front of the antenna. The limited read range ensures that only one instrument is recognised.” Both concepts function relatively well. The reason we chose the provider ASANUS was that we already use the company’s software for sterile equipment management. The RFID solution was literally an add-on that required no new software”, says Sadmir Osmancevic.

“In sterilisation, we have demonstrated that we can bring a high-quality to processes by using RFID. And it goes further. The opening of a new CFM building in 2017 will be based on further employment of developing RFID devices.” - Sadmir Osmancevic

Minimum target: 500 treatment cycles

“We focused on two product categories in the first test and now they are in live operation: straight and contra-angle hand pieces from the dental clinic and rigid endoscopic optics, which are used, for example, in laparoscopic operations. It was possible for the labelling to be done in-house once our staff had been trained by the solution provider. The quantities of these instruments are rather low.” The biggest challenge of the RFID solution was to ensure the lasting durability and functionality of the adhered transponder. “There are difficult conditions to manage, such as chemicals, mechanical stress during transport, material expansion at high temperatures. An effective solution also needs to operate for at least 500 treatment cycles. This corresponds to the rigid optics product lifespan of around three years”, says Stefan Preuss, explaining the numerous challenges. “We firmly believe that we have rolled out a suitable solution. The first few weeks in real operation demonstrated that this was the case”, says Stefan Preuss.

Transponder and adhesive hold permanently

The bond between the transponder and the instrument is of particular importance. “Firstly, the adhesive used must be biocompatible. Any risk to the patient from the adhesive must be completely eliminated. Both providers were able to confirm this in writing. Otherwise, there would not have been any tests," reports Sadmir Osmancevic. He explains: "We were able to test all the treatment processes that were used throughout the usual life cycle in test scenarios. There were no problems. In real operation the instruments come in contact with blood, saline and iodine-containing substances. We do not anticipate that this will affect the adhesion, but we will observe this closely.”

Product approval not affected

When a medical instrument is structurally modified or components are added, the product liability of the manufacturer sometimes becomes redundant. In the case of achieving transponder adhesion on hand pieces as well as rigid endoscopes, however, this is not an obstacle, says Sadmir Osmancevic: “The CFM has its own maintenance and repair workshop for instruments and equipment. Contact with the instrument manufacturers is therefore close, so we can discuss how to label the instruments with them. By sticking transponders to the instruments, they are not changed or influenced in their function – the doctors and staff who use the tagged tools every day have confirmed this.”

Can RFID also be used in plasma sterilisation?

RFID technology is currently used in two product groups and only in certain treatment processes. “We achieve very good results when cleaning the instruments with mild alkaline cleaners, by thermal disinfection and steam sterilisation”, reports Stefan Preuss. Sadmir Osmancevic adds: “We have provisionally left out plasma sterilisation, because we have not yet been able to establish how the bonds react with hydrogen peroxide. We are in contact with plasma sterilisation device manufacturers in order to undertake future tests. We believe in the technologies’ potential. The employment of detection on an item level has confirmed our premise that we can improve our processes with RFID.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 May 2016 12:36
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