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Easy Apron Tracking

Tabbed barcodes help Michigan health system manage radiation personal protective equipment

Opportunity: improve radiology inventory management

Radiology is essential to diagnosing and treating disease, but radiation remains a potential hazard. Accordingly, hospital patients and staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) – lead aprons and collars – to prevent absorbing more radiation than is necessary. These PPE assets, like any other equipment, wear out over time. Hospitals inspect them annually for integrity, per guidelines set by The Joint Commission – the not-for-profit organization accrediting and certifying health care organizations in the United States. A Michigan-based health system was numbering their lead aprons by hand and keeping inspection records in binders and spreadsheets across each hospital. "It was cumbersome," said Muhammad Bhalli, their a radiology business manager. "We struggled to find the right apron, let alone reference it in our records or report to the Joint Commission. We wanted to be able to identify them visually and run reports."

Solution: robust asset tags on shielding assets

Bhalli, who had a background in information technology, built a web-based inventory management system, associating each apron with a unique barcode ID. As a cloud-based, decision support system, staff can track, audit and maintain aprons using data sorted by department, area and garment type. They can see details on individual inspections records, and the system notifies when an apron is due for inspection. Staff can see who has assets and who needs them. It supports budget forecasting, too. The data entry process during inspection is simple: hospital staff scans each apron's barcode to update the annual inspection record and attaches an annual sticker on the apron's barcode tag. "This software provides a very simple way to organize and track your aprons," said Bhalli. "It's easy to enter data that automatically organizes itself. We haven't had to do user training because it is such a simple process." Aprons, however, are not easy to label. "We tried using a sticker," said Bhalli. "It was a miserable failure. Nothing sticks to that fabric surface." Bhalli worked with Metalcraft to design a barcode tag – a long, thin hang tag with holes at each end that attaches via grommet to an apron tab. Additionally, there is a colored tab for each year of inspection, similar to a license plate. "Metalcaft was very helpful with the process," said Bhalli. "Now, we can document our 800 aprons very quickly, and barcodes have eliminated all the errors."

Result: efficient maintenance and regulatory compliance

This solution reduces inspection and maintenance time, supporting their cost control and excellent patient care. It is a comprehensive way to minimize errors, protect staff and patients and pass inspections quickly. And it is rolling out across its hospital system now. The organization is also marketing the solution as ApronTrack.co – providing other organizations with an accurate, secure tracking solution for Radiation PPE.