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Keeping track of medical gas supplies for the emergency services

Medical Gas Solutions

Medical Gas Solutions logoMedical Gas Solutions (MGS) supplies emergency services and NHS trusts with gases like oxygen and nitronox that are essential to save lives and reduce pain in a wide range of emergency, pre- and post-operative situations.

As well as offering products for sale, MGS provides a managed service in which cylinders are returned for refill and inspected and serviced as required. The company wanted a better system to keep track of the cylinders, one that would save costs for customers by reducing cylinder loss and optimise cylinder usage.

MGS approached CoreRFID with its plans to electronically tag cylinders. CoreRFID helped it to select the most appropriate tagging mechanisms and then designed and provided the system, that keeps track of cylinders and makes it possible for MGS’s customers to see information on cylinder location and usage.

Medical gas cylinder

“The CoreRFID system has overcome the problems we had in the past. Now our RFID tagged cylinders are tracked accurately and we can deliver the service we planned for our customers.”
– Dave Donlan, Operations Manager, Medical Gas Solutions.

RFID tags enable easy identification

Medical Gas Solutions was set up in 2003 to provide a UK wide supply of medical gases for emergency use. Since then the company has worked with a broad range of healthcare professionals including the ambulance, fire and police service, Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART), St John Ambulance, doctors, dentists, nurses and midwives, delivering analgesic and resuscitation kits.

MGS has a track record in innovative products. It was the first to introduce an ultra-lightweight 1 litre high-pressure medical gas cylinder for use by rapid response units and paramedics and also developed the multi-patient unit that can deliver gas to multiple casualties to help cope with major incidents.

To track and manage the return of cylinders for its managed services, MGS decided on an approach using RFID tags because it allowed cylinders to be tracked to delivery locations and immediately identified on being returned. From the data collected in this way, MGS expected to pass on a number of benefits to customers including usage information that would help better planning and budgeting, information on each customer’s stockholding of different types of gases at different sites, and reduced losses of cylinders.

Overcoming problems with a previous system

The company had already trialled a system but had experienced a number of problems including duplicate data and other database issues, a lack of real time data, difficulties reading tags, accessing data and providing the correct information to customers. To overcome these problems MGS asked CoreRFID to create a new system that would allow it to achieve its original objectives.

Monitoring the full cycle: from filling to despatch and return

The CoreRFID solution was designed to support three main activities with the cylinders:

  • Filling – the batch details, cylinder serial number, owner, date of filling and expiry are recorded in a database and linked to the cylinder using the RFID tag data.
  • Distribution – the customer name, location and cylinder number are collected as well as allowing for an audit of all the cylinders held at a particular location.
  • Service – any cylinder failing an inspection is given an out-of-service status which prevents it from being put back into use until it is over-ridden by service staff after a successful service.
    Tags can be read by workers on site using mobile phones or handheld devices which then display details of the cylinder being checked and the actions that need to be taken. To overcome previous problems with the reliability of data, an update system was devised that would automatically synchronise data from the various handheld devices used to collect data from tags.

Information is ‘synced’ over a GPRS data network when a signal is available or using the MGS network by plugging the handheld devices into a cradle at the end of day. The system also allows for the use of barcoded items so that any cylinders without a tag can also be managed. Information is delivered to customers and to MGS staff using the cloud-based system operated by CoreRFID on behalf of MGS, which also provides a wide range of reports and enquiries on the status and availability of cylinders.

The MGS RFID system is based on CoreRFID’s CheckedOK solution which is widely used by companies using and servicing safety and survival equipment such as life rafts and fire extinguishers.

A simple user interface allows data about collections, deliveries, fillings, inspections and other tasks to be easily entered. By making it easy to follow the right actions and simple to enter the data required, the system improves the overall accuracy of the processes. The same is true of the web interface for users of the data portal which offers users flexibility in the layout and content of reports as well as allowing data to be filtered for particular locations or companies.

The benefits

The Medical Gas Solutions system provides:

  • Accurate data on cylinder locations and status for MGS staff and customers.
  • Data for customer usage planning.
  • Warnings where cylinders, valves or gas fillings have passed their expiry date.
  • Easily implemented audits to keep track of the location of cylinders, saving costs and reducing the risks of out-of-date cylinders or gases being used.