Pharmaceutical company Fresenius Kabi next month plans to roll out its first medication sold with radio-frequency identification, a technology used for tracking inventory.
The German pharmaceutical company on Tuesday announced plans to add a portfolio of medications with RFID embedded into their labels this year, beginning with generic injectable and infused medications commonly used in operating rooms, such as anesthesia products. The first product will launch in September.
Pricing for medications in the portfolio, called +RFID, has not been finalized. Organizations would purchase the products through wholesalers.
It marks one of the first times a pharmaceutical manufacturer has embedded information that hospital customers use to identify medications into an RFID tag, according to company officials. The company is using an RFID standard from not-for-profit standards development organization GS1.
That could help hospital customers more efficiently manage their medication inventory and save costs by cutting the need to manually tag products, company officials said.
"Inventory management is a high priority for hospitals, especially in the current environment," said John Ducker, president and CEO of Fresenius Kabi USA, in a statement.
Fresenius Kabi partnered with IntelliGuard, a developer of inventory management software tools, for the RFID-embedded labels.
Integrating RFID opens new growth opportunities for the pharmaceutical company, according to Nitin Naik, global vice president of life sciences at market research firm Frost & Sullivan.
"Healthcare providers have struggled in product tracking and pilferage control," he wrote in an email to Modern Healthcare. "This announcement is a step in the right direction for (Fresenius Kabi) to leverage new growth opportunities in track and trace solutions in the anesthesia and analgesia medications market."
RFID tags—unlike other ways of tracking inventory, like barcode scanners—track items passively, noted Rick Kes, a partner and healthcare senior analyst at audit and consulting firm RSM. Typically, a hospital sets up checkpoints throughout a facility to wirelessly read and identify labels embedded with RFID tags, so that staff can locate where products are.
"I see the benefit here (as having) less human requirement to track," Kes said.
But whether deploying RFID asset tracking will result in cost savings depends on how organizations use data they can glean from the process, and whether they're able to apply it to make inventory management leaner and more efficient, according to Kes.
With RFID, "you're going to start capturing a lot more data," Kes said. "Capturing the data is one thing, but actually using it to make actionable decisions is a whole other thing."