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Posted: 6/2/2011
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BloodCenter of Wisconsin Blood Center Expects to Automate Product Tracking, Cut Costs with RFID Solution

BloodCenter of Wisconsin provides blood and blood products to hospitals for patients in need throughout the state. In consortium with partners, the center wanted to create an automated, efficient way to reconcile and track blood products and containers. It plans to deploy a radio frequency identification solution based on Microsoft BizTalk Server RFID 2010. Once the solution is implemented, the organization expects to streamline processes, reduce errors, lower costs, and improve efficiency.

Business Needs

BloodCenter of Wisconsin, based in Milwaukee, collects and distributes lifesaving blood across Wisconsin. A not-for-profit organization, BloodCenter of Wisconsin also offers diagnostic testing, medical services, organ and tissue services, and leading-edge research.

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* Using the Spotlight application built on Microsoft BizTalk RFID, we will be able to account for all blood bags without having to scan each one multiple times.  *

Lynne Briggs
IT Director
BloodCenter of Wisconsin

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About 800 people need to donate blood each day to help maintain the supply to local hospitals served by BloodCenter of Wisconsin. Tracking these products from the point of collection to the patient’s hospital bedside is a primary responsibility of the organization and industry. “We are in the mission-critical business of collecting and distributing blood to patients that need it,” says Lynne Briggs, IT Director, BloodCenter of Wisconsin. "That's why it is so important that we have the right technology to support those efforts."

Blood centers rely on the combination of technology and process controls to trace and reconcile blood products. The process of tracking product information and entering it into the system is sometimes paper-based, time-consuming, and prone to error. "There are multiple hand-offs and physical location and status changes throughout the supply chain," says Briggs. "Unfortunately, human errors happen, and they can cause a product to be unusable or not at the right place when it is needed."

Because of the critical nature of the blood supply and the importance of traceability and controls, the FDA regulates the industry to ensure the adequacy and accuracy of blood center tracking and reporting processes. The industry therefore seeks solutions that can reduce the risk of human error and costly inefficiencies.

For decades, the industry has relied on barcodes for identification and tracking of blood products. Eventually, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology will work in parallel with existing barcodes and will allow automatic and bulk identification of units. Currently, each barcode must be individually scanned, which can be inefficient.

Solution

In late 2007, BloodCenter of Wisconsin founded the Transfusion Medicine RFID Consortium, a public-private partnership of hospitals and blood centers, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, local technology partner SysLogic, and Oregon-based Microsoft Gold Certified Partner S3Edge. Through a study funded by the National Institutes of Health, the consortium sought to assess and pilot RFID as a way to increase efficiency and supply chain safety.

S3Edge was chosen to develop the solution. Starting in February 2010, S3Edge used Microsoft BizTalk Server RFID 2010 to create two RFID tracking solutions, one focused on blood centers and the other for use by hospital transfusion services. BizTalk Server RFID 2010, a device management and event-processing technology, provides a scalable, extensible environment for developing and managing RFID solutions.

The solution is a customization of Spotlight, an S3Edge asset-tracking application. Spotlight is based on BizTalk Server RFID 2010, BizTalk RFID Mobile, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 data management software, the Windows Server 2008 operating system, and the Microsoft Silverlight browser plug-in.

The solution runs in a browser or on a user desktop, and employs RFID technology to detect the movement of blood containers. BloodCenter of Wisconsin staff members will either use handheld RFID readers to automatically read individual blood bags, or tunnel readers to read large containers with multiple bags of blood. The application will connect with the center’s blood management software system and will augment existing back-end systems.

With the Spotlight asset tracking website, the application can obtain end-to-end process visibility and RFID event flow analytics during critical processes such as blood collection. The center plans to do a pilot implementation in late 2011.

Benefits

When its new RFID solution is in place, BloodCenter of Wisconsin will streamline critical blood tracking and reconciliation processes. The center also expects to cut costs and increase operational efficiencies.

Streamlines Processes, Reduces Errors

Once implemented, the new RFID tracking solution will support automated tracking and tracing of blood products. Many points where multiple bar code scanning or hand counting was done will now be captured through the RFID reader and immediately recorded in the center’s database. “Using the Spotlight application built on Microsoft BizTalk RFID, we will be able to account for all blood bags without having to scan each one multiple times,” says Briggs. “If we have a cooler with 30 bags of blood, we will be able to read the entire group of bags within seconds by passing it through a tunnel reader rather than individually scanning each barcode.”

This streamlined process will mean that blood centers everywhere can reduce tracking and shipping errors. “We will be more confident about tracking and reporting and less tied up in background manual record auditing and error reconciliation processes,” says Briggs.

Reduces Operating Costs

The consortium anticipates that the solution will reduce blood center costs. The team and the University of Wisconsin–Madison spent 18 months conducting a technology assessment analyzing potential cost savings. Key pain points were assessed and associated with RFID-enabled processes that are automated and provide improved visibility. “Our ROI analysis shows that this solution could pay for itself within three years, based on assumed RFID tag cost and the volume of blood being managed,” says Briggs.

Increases Efficiency

BloodCenter of Wisconsin anticipates it will boost efficiency with a more automated method of tracking and tracing blood products. “We expect efficiency gains with this solution,” says Briggs. “For example, by taking advantage of Microsoft RFID technology to replace bar code–based processes, we can reduce the amount of physical handling and manual counting. We will control costs and improve product quality through the supply chain by being more efficient, which helps patients, too.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview



Organization Size: 800 employees

Organization Profile

BloodCenter of Wisconsin is a nonprofit transfusion medicine organization providing services to 60 hospitals throughout Wisconsin.


Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2008
  • Windows Server 2008
  • Microsoft Biztalk Server 2010
  • Microsoft Silverlight
  • Microsoft BizTalk Server RFID

Vertical Industries
Health Provider

Country/Region
United States

Business Need
  • Business Critical
  • Data Management
  • Mission Critical

IT Issue
  • Data Warehousing
  • High Availability

Languages
English

Partner(s)
S3Edge Software

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