- Written by Harvey Welles
Why are medical center CFOs giving a single thought to their facility’s laundry operation? Because the cost of keeping linens, scrubs, and patient gowns clean while limiting contact with potentially hazardous laundry items significantly impacts their facility’s profitability. Now, advances in ultrahigh frequency radio frequency identification (UHF-RFID) laundry automation are being implemented to increase operating efficiency and add a healthy boost to the bottom line.
MEDICAL CENTERS TAP UHF-RFID AUTOMATION TO MEET EXACTING LAUNDRY REQUIREMENTS
The healthcare sector is growing rapidly. According to the American Hospital Association, the nearly 5,600 registered hospitals in the country admit more than 37 million patients each year. These numbers will only increase in the coming years.
In the world of laundry operations, hospitals and medical centers are set apart because of their exacting requirements. Laundry deliveries must arrive on time and there is always a potential risk of contamination. Biohazard items must be handled with particular care to prevent contact with staff and patients. Staff uniforms and scrubs must be inventoried, assigned to specific health care professionals, and their cleaning cycles and use tracked to monitor wear. Bed linens and patient gowns must also be closely monitored for stains and processed with the same care to monitor use.
Until recently, laundry processing was a manual procedure that took time and was error-prone. This is changing. Now, leading hospitals implement the latest UHF-RFID laundry technology to automate the business of inventorying, identifying, tracking, and budgeting for hospital linens and uniforms. Durable, waterproof UHF-RFID tracking laundry tags are easily attached to uniforms and linens. Each tag is unique to the item. It identifies the item’s purchase date, cost, vendor, the number of washing cycles it has undergone, and repairs. With the tags in place, the entire inventory can be automatically processed in bulk. Each item is tracked by UHFRFID processing stations without manual sorting or hand-counting. The result is a fast, efficient operation that requires less labor and maintains an accurate digital inventory of all items in real-time.
UHF-RFID LAUNDRY SYSTEMS REDUCE LOSS AND REPLACEMENT COSTS
As uniforms and linens are sent to the laundry and returned, the system automatically records each item, whether it is in a full laundry cart or on a rack with hundreds of other uniforms. This tracking occurs as the items move past specialized UHF-RFID bulk processing readers. By continually recording each item’s movement, the system virtually eliminates loss. When employees pick up their uniforms and scrubs, the system automatically records it. This creates personal accountability that again deters losses. Additionally, the specialized software generates reports on parstocks and each item’s location. This greatly reduces replacement costs, and simplifies ordering new items and creating budgets. InvoTech Systems, Inc. provides systems and software that are widely-used to streamline the entire process for medical centers.
HANDHELD WIRELESS SCANNERS MONITOR BIOHAZARD CONTAINERS FOR GREATER STAFF SAFETY
The most advanced laundry tracking systems also use portable handheld readers and WiFi technology to reduce human contact with possibly hazardous or contaminated linens, uniforms, and gowns. Medical center laundry staff can use a wireless handheld UHF-RFID reader to inventory biohazard containers without contact. This reduces the risk of contamination. The handheld readers communicate each item’s location to system software via a WiFi connection. This makes the data accessible to all users at once. UHF-RFID systems and handheld wireless readers also simplify the periodic physical inventorying of uniforms and linens in numerous hospital storerooms. Any manual inventory process is labor intensive and inherently inaccurate due to human error both in counting and data keying.
Efficiency and cost savings are important to any business; this is especially true for medical centers with staffs that number in the thousands. Many of these facilities use commercial garment conveyors similar to those found in dry cleaners, but on a massive scale, to provide clean uniforms. The conveyors communicate with UHF-RFID uniform tracking systems to automatically deliver uniforms to staff who present an ID card or key-in their employee number. As staff members identify themselves, the uniform conveyor communicates with the uniform tracking software to verify the employee’s ID. It then instantly delivers the correct uniform in a matter of seconds. As the employee takes a uniform from the conveyor, a UHFRFID antenna over the conveyor door records which uniforms were collected and who took possession. This maintains a current record of each uniform item’s location.
12-MONTH ROI FOR UHF-RFID LAUNDRY SYSTEMS
Hospital and medical center CFOs watch their laundry departments because it is one place where they can save money. UHF-RFID laundry systems track valuable inventories and lower cleaning expenses and labor costs. The added benefits to health care facility operators are that inventory processing and tracking are done safely with minimum human contact. The system also eliminate losses, reduces purchases, and lowers the risk of hazardous contamination. And the UHF-RFID systems have an ROI of less than 12 months. This gets a CFO’s attention.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Harvey Welles, president of Invo- Tech Systems and innovative inventory control systems for hotels, casinos, resorts, theme parks, and sports arenas
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