Help! I Can’t Find My OR Supplies!


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Tracking the location and utilization of surgical supplies is a challenge faced by most hospitals. Average supply returns for picked supplies is low, O.R. in-and-out traffic to retrieve unavailable items is high, and significant staff hours are spent checking consumption and restocking and locating supplies.

UTMC and DeRoyal have developed and implemented a "smart" radio frequency identification (RFID) trash bin (Continuum OR) that tracks inventory used during a case, charges for that inventory, and shows where items are located in the room in real time. UTMC’s initial studies from 11 orthopedic and neurosurgery rooms have shown that “cashier” duties can be taken away from the circulating nurse, who can then focus on the patient, reducing the amount of supplies wasted and saving their organization 2 to 3 million dollars.

How this session relates to the Cost, Quality, and Outcomes (CQO) Movement: CQO is the essence of this project. Virtually every business uses technology to track supplies and inventory, and health care is joining those ranks. By utilizing RFID technology, health acre can now reduce costs, improve the quality of operating room service, and improve patient outcomes. Cost reduction is being realized through the automation of manual systems, reducing inventory, and automating the ordering of supplies. Quality is enhanced by reducing the opportunity to introduce infection when opening surgical suite doors to retrieve supplies, and allowing nurses to focus on direct patient care. Outcomes are realized not only through the money that is saved, but also in reducing the space needed for supplies, and implementing a chain of custody for supplies.


Learning Objectives:
  • Describe RFID and its use in operating rooms.
  • Understand the challenges of implementing RFID.
  • Become knowledgeable about the ability of RFID technology to reduce costs and automate inventory systems.


  • Becky Ashin, BBA, MA — Vice President, Advanced Orthopaedic Center, University of Tennessee Medical Center


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