.:Blood Services Puts RFID to the TEst; Results show opportunity to improve safety and timeliness of delivery :.
Mississippi Blood Services (MBS) is the only Mississippi-based FDA licensed not-for-profit blood center. MBS has been supplying a safe and adequate supply of blood and blood products to hospitals in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas for over 25 years.
MBS provides a wide range of blood and blood components, reference laboratory and cross-matching services and education and training services to hospitals and hospital transfusion services.
MBS collects more than 60,000 units of blood each year from more than 35,000 donors. At any given time, MBS has up to 2,500 units of blood in inventory, ready to ship:
- Blood products usually only last from 5 to 42 days
- Frozen plasma usually lasts up to a year
- MBS supplies blood to more than 50 hospitals and medical facilities throughout Mississippi
Saving lives by accurately shipping the correct blood type and product is essential for MBS. With a large inventory of stored blood products and a quick delivery time, MBS wanted to trial a solution that would not only help them improve the timeliness of deliveries, but also ensure the safety of their products as well as lower costs and help to manage inventory.
Blood products have a short shelf life and require specific cold storage conditions. MBS has tradionally used bar codes on each bag of blood and manually scanned each package in sub-freezing temperatures. This process can take hours and require three steps prior to shipping.
MBS recognised that RFID technology could possibly help with their processes, but several challanges needed to be addressed. First, trialing an RFID system on liquid blood products can be complicated because of the plasma content, which contains a high degree of water. The content of the blood bags create a dampening effect on the radio frequency signals, which causes the resonant frequency to degrade. Special RFID tag technologies are needed for accurate and reliable performance. Next, the -30 degree Centigrade storage temperature required for preservation purposes presents challenges for both the tag and portal.
MBS contacted several companies who could propose an RFID technology that would meet all their needs while overcoming the challenges presented. MBS found that most companies could not overcome the challenges to labelling plasma or other environmental and interference problems.
MBS turned to AARFID and other RFID vendors, including Texas Instruments (TI), to find the right mix of technology. Using its integrated chip-to-inlay manufacturing capabilities, TI laser-tuned each inlay so that the RFID labels operated at 13.56MHz, the optimal frequency for this application, while affixed to the bags.
In the initial phase of a closed-loop RFID experiment, which was tested on 1,000 bags of blood, each bag was identified with a TI 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 secordary information based on a check of MBS's database.
The trial showed that same process, which is usually done by hand and takes up to three hours, now takes only an hour or less of time using the automated RFID system. With RFID, the hours that workers typically spend in sub-freezing temperatures with scanners to verify blood bags can be reduced to a minimum and reapplied to speeding the distribution of blood and blood products from MBS to their clients.