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Below is our recent interview with Lana Makhanik, COO at VUEMED:
Q: Tell us about why you created VUEMED – what problems were you looking to solve?
A: Arnold Chazal and I founded VUEMED ten years ago in order to try and solve the most acute inventory management, supply chain, and clinical documentation problems that we were seeing at hospitals through our consulting work. Today, these problems continue to plague hospitals since many are still not using technologies for tracking items throughout their lifecycle in the facility. We call this problem the “blind spot.” MMIS and clinical documentation systems are simply not designed to track and report on each product throughout the supply chain cycle. The blind spot primarily means that there is an inability to: (a) track each item from the point of entry into the hospital until it is used in a patient or removed from inventory; (b) track items precisely with lot/serial number and expiration date; and (c) find their exact location within the hospital.
This lack of clinical inventory management solutions for tracking items also means that the documentation of items at the point of care is highly manual, duplicative, and error-prone. Poor and inaccurate data capture at the point of care decreases patient safety (such as in the case of a recall), but also leads to inaccurate patient records and billing errors, among other serious problems.
At VUEMED, we wanted to create a simple yet powerful technology that could produce comprehensive and accurate data to enable hospitals to reduce waste and increase revenue, but most importantly to improve the quality and delivery of patient care. At the end of the day, this is what really counts.
Q: What’s the impact of these problems on patients? Should they be concerned?
A: Yes, patients should definitely be concerned. Data capture problems are well known to those working in these environments who are involved in documenting items or processing charges related to patient procedures; however, they are typically not seen or understood by the public at large.
In the procedural settings the clinical documentation error rate is in the 25% to 50% range for supplies and implants, meaning that 1 in 4 to 1 in 2 cases has documentation errors due to the lack of technology and automation for documenting product usage. These errors include wrong or missing items, and missing or incorrect details (e.g. omitted lot number or mistyped serial number).
What are the implications of such errors? For one, as I mentioned before, they result in inaccurate patient records. Documenting the wrong item, erroneously adding an item, or failing to document an item used, all cause various serious problems in the records. They cause inaccurate billing and either end up over- or under-billing the patient, Medicare or the insurance. Over-billing can have direct financial implications for the patient, and is also a form of insurance fraud. Imagine if our credit card transactions were only 50% accurate in documenting and reporting our charges?
Even more worrisome, documentation errors such as wrong or missing items, or incorrect item information such as lot/serial number, mean that when a product recall occurs, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to track that product to the specific patient. The problem is that devices are often recalled; each year millions of units need to be tracked down, removed from the shelves, and connected to specific patient procedures so that affected patients can receive proper clinical follow-up. The number of medical device recalls increased from 2,303 in FY2013 to 3,202 in FY2017, posing potentially serious health risks to patients (Source: Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society, 10 Jan 2018).
Additionally, when hospitals do not have inventory management technologies in place, patient procedures are put at risk because there is no real-time or accurate information about which products have expired on the shelves or are out-of-stock.
So, given the clinical, patient safety, and financial impact of medical devices and supplies on patient care processes and outcomes, why does the industry continue to tolerate such abysmal error rates in such basic functions as the recording of which specific items were used on which patient, and which items are in stock?
Q: How do VUEMED’s solutions help solve these problems?
A: VUEMED’s overarching goal is to transform the healthcare supply chain from the point of receipt to the point of care. To achieve this, we use a flexible and scalable SaaS model and innovative RFID- and Cloud-based technologies.
Our RAIN (GS1 UHF Gen2) RFID technology, such as our flagship solution VueTrack-RF, provides extremely accurate, real-time visibility, and traceability of all medical products and supplies throughout the supply chain, from the moment the product is labeled with a passive RFID tag at the manufacturer site, all the way through the supply chain to the hospital and to the patient at the point of care.
Our technology is hands-free and cabinet-free, and turns any space – whether a supply room, procedure room, or warehouse – into a fully controlled and automated inventory space using existing shelving with real-time information about each product’s location, availability, usage, and expiration information. And our massive Cloud-based database of clinical products works seamlessly with all of VUEMED’s technologies to ensure the accuracy of the data capture.
Our solutions bridge the gap between materials management and clinical areas in order to get the fastest and most accurate transference of data on a product’s availability, location, and pedigree information (lot or serial number and expiration date). These solutions provide hospitals with a suite of powerful tools that collect, generate, and analyze critical data in a way that is meaningful and easily actionable. With this data at their fingertips, users have full, real-time visibility of their inventory, can optimize the inventory by reducing purchases to sensible levels aligned with actual needs, and can achieve billing precision that translates into additional revenue capture for the hospital.
But most importantly, our solutions improve the quality of patient care by bringing the highest accuracy of patient records, and by giving hospitals the ability to: (a) handle recalls swiftly and accurately; (b) ensure that items are in stock when they’re needed; and (c) guarantee that expired items are never used in patient procedures.
Q: Why is now the time for the kinds of technology solutions that VUEMED is offering?
A: In 2013, in an effort to improve patient safety, the FDA passed a regulation mandating the identification of medical devices using a Unique Device Identifier (UDI) labelling system (including such data as lot/serial number and expiration date). The regulation creates a standard identification system for all medical devices, enabling “track & trace” from the point of origin of the device all the way to the patient in the procedure room. This regulation is designed to prevent errors and support recalls, and is expected to be fully implemented by 2020. The promise of the UDI rule is that no matter which procedure a device is used in, the device can be easily and quickly identified, and accurately tracked and reported.
VUEMED’s RAIN RFID solutions are UDI-compliant and give both hospitals and device manufacturers greater control, visibility and traceability of their clinical inventory, thereby dramatically improving patient outcomes, clinical documentation, and integration of key supply data into other systems.