A Small Tag Makes All the Difference

Scrub and uniform loss can be a very costly problem for large healthcare organizations. Hospitals supply uniforms to hundreds of employees each day, which makes it very easy to lose track of inventory. How bad is the issue? Let’s just say it is not uncommon for hospitals or laundries to replenish their entire scrub inventory multiple times per year! While many turn a blind-eye to the issue, others turn to uniform dispensing systems to help control it. Indeed, credit-based dispensing solutions that track the distribution of uniforms have proven to be an effective way to materially reduce loss.

How do these dispensing system work?

Dispenser manufacturers tend to follow one of two approaches:
1. Uniforms are embedded with RFID chips, and the dispensers are equipped with RFID readers that allows the system software to uniquely track the distribution and return of every uniform.

2. Uniforms are not embedded with RFID chips, and the dispensers simply track the distribution of sizes.
Although both of these approaches will help tackle the issue of uniform loss, it is palpable that the RFID method is more reliable.
In the absence of RFID tracking, only size distribution is tracked and credits are returned to users on a somewhat fiduciary basis. With an RFID system, users are linked to the RFID codes of the uniforms they retrieve, and credits are not returned until the specific uniforms used are placed in the collecting basket. The RFID method undoubtably offers a higher level of control.
With that noted, why do many hospitals still choose to use non-RFID systems?

The RFID implementation process

Implementing RFID dispensing systems requires a higher level of commitment. From a financial perspective, RFID chips will marginally increase the cost of the uniforms. From an operational perspective, the process of embedding RFID chips in all circulated uniforms is definitely no walk in the park and will require dedicated resources.
That being said, once these initial hurdles are overcome, hospitals will not only benefit from a more reliable control system, but will also be able to exploit the wide range of efficiency and cost-saving benefits that RFID tracking brings to the table. What are some of the main benefits of RFID and key differences between RFID and fiduciary dispensing systems?

RFid-based dispensing and collecting

What can be dispensed?

Any mix of items can be dispensed from the same machine (scrubs of all colors and sizes, isolation gowns, lab coats, etc.). No need to “pre-define” holding slots – any item containing an RFID tag will be recognized by the machine.

How are scrubs registered to users when dispensed?

By associating users to an RFID code that is unique to every garment

How do you know what is returned into the receiving system?

When scrubs are returned, they are scanned to check whether the item that is returned is the same item that was dispensed

What kind of reports can you generate?

• Since every item is individually tracked, reports will be more detailed

• Compare your reports with laundry reports to determine if items may have been lost in transit to the laundry facility

In what other ways can you leverage the technology?

Once you have a software like ours that integrates with RFID readers, you can:

• Track stockroom inventory
• Integrate other items into your dispensing/tracking process
• Integrate with your laundry’s RFID ERP system
• Scan any item to view history

NON-RFid dispensing and collecting

What can be dispensed?

Only items with pre-defined holding slots can be dispensed

How are scrubs registered to users when dispensed?

By associating users to their selected size

How do you know what is returned into the receiving system?

Returns are verified with a camera or are based on a fiduciary system. No way to accurately track returns

What kind of reports can you generate?

Since items cannot be individually tracked, reports will be more generic

Which option is right for you?

For organzations that already use RFID in their process, the decision should be a no-brainer – an RFID dispensing system simply has more to offer. If RFID has not yet been implemented, it is necessary to assess whether the additional economic and operational benfits of an RFID dispensing system will justify the initial investment for your particular organization. All factors considered, it almost always will! Contact us today for a free cost-benefit analysis!

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