Information technology  

RFID tags streamline Mississippi blood delivery

23 August 2006

Dallas, Texas USA. Mississippi Blood Services recently completed a trial using a specially tuned radio frequency identification (RFID) system from Texas Instruments Incorporated (TI) (NYSE: TXN) and AARFID to streamline inventory management, strengthen safety procedures and improve delivery of blood bags to hospitals.

The current manual job of scanning individual bar codes on each bag of blood in sub-freezing temperatures can take hours, with each bag going through a series of three steps before shipping. The trial showed that same process takes only an hour or less using the automated RFID system.

In this first phase of the closed-loop RFID experiment, each bag of blood was identified with a TI RFID tag (Tag-it HF-I ISO/IEC 15693) inlay embedded inside labels from MPI Label Systems. Multiple bags of blood were placed on trays and passed out of the cold storage room on a conveyor system, through a prototype portal custom-designed by AARFID and incorporating readers manufactured by FEIG Electronic. As the trays passed through the portal, all of the bags were read simultaneously to check for expiration dates and other secondary information based on a check of Mississippi Blood Services’ database.

Challenges in implementing an RFID system on liquid blood products include both the plasma content and -30°C storage temperature required for preservation purposes. The content of the blood bags creates a dampening effect on the radio frequency signals, causing the resonant frequency to degrade. Special RFID tag technologies are needed for accurate and reliable performance. Using its integrated chip-to-inlay manufacturing capabilities, TI laser tuned each inlay so that the RFID labels operated at 13.56 MHz, the optimal frequency for this application, while affixed to the bags.

“At this time we think the RFID system will automate our time and labour intensive manual inventory processes, enabling us to better ensure product integrity and deliver blood to hospitals faster,” said Gulam Patel, Mississippi Blood Services Information Services Manager.

“By moving the blood products through the RFID portal, all tags can be read almost instantly and with higher accuracy,” said Chad Carpenter, president of AARFID. “Shipping speeds could be increased and safety checks could be streamlined to ensure that Mississippi Blood Services can serve their clients, the hospitals, with confidence.”

“Using RFID in the management and delivery of blood products has the potential for dramatic business process improvements,” said Jeff Kohnle, business development manager for Texas Instruments RFid Systems. “Manual operations can be automated so that Mississippi Blood Services’ life-giving inventory can find its way to hospitals, patients or wherever it is needed with the utmost efficiency.”

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