RFID, Georgetown University Hospital, HIV Screening Studies, MDS, Duke, HCA, Cigna

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RADIO FREQUENCY IDENTIFICATION (RFID) is making swift progress in a variety of healthcare applications.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to secure the nation’s drug supply through widespread use of RFID tags by 2007. To counter drug counterfeiting, some pharmaceutical companies are moving faster.

Pfizer said it will have RFID tags on all bottles of Viagra by the end of 2005. GlaxoSmithKline announced that it would have RFID tags on its drug products most susceptible to counterfeiting by late 2005 or early 2006. Purdue Pharma will put RFID tags on bottles of OxyContin and possibly also Palladone.

In each of these cases, pharmaceutical manufacturers will label bottles shipped to pharmacies to ensure that drugs are authentic. RFID labels will also make it possible to track a bottle’s pedigree as it passes through the system and to make it easier to manage product recalls.

At Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, DC, the blood bank is launching a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of RFID tags to track blood products. RFID tags are being placed on collection bags used by the local blood donor center.

RFID tags will be used within the donor center and the Georgetown University Hospital blood bank to track units of blood from time of collection through transfusion. The goal is to improve accuracy and allow better management of the blood products to maximize utilization.

Since March of 2004, Georgetown’s blood bank has placed read-only RFID tags on the wristbands of patients in the blood infusion unit. The RFID tags have the patient’s name and medical record number. The scanner reads both the bar code and the RFID and helps nurses ensure delivery of the correct blood type.

Gerald Sandler M.D., Director, Transfusion Medicine at the Georgetown University Hospital, will be at the Executive War College in New Orleans on May 3-4, 2005 to report on how RFID tags are performing within his laboratory.


HIV SCREENING for the greater population is cost justified. That is the conclusion of two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on February 10, 2004.

One study was done by the Yale School of Medicine. The other was done by researchers at the Duke Clinical Research Institute at Duke University and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System. Publication of these two studies may be the first salvo in an effort by advocates to build a case in favor of more HIV screening among the general population. Greater utilization of HIV screening tests would impact most clinical laboratories in the United States.

The Yale study used a mathematical model of HIV screening and treatment to predict the benefits of HIV counseling, testing, and referral. It was their determination that a program of “routine, voluntary HIV screening every three to five years is cost-effective by U.S. standards, in all but the lowest-risk populations.”

The Duke/VA study team used a different model. It included variables for patient characteristics, the natural history of the disease, timing of testing and treatments, immunological status, outcomes, medical costs, and quality of life parameters. This model drew information from the latest clinical trial results and studies published in the scientific literature.

Their model targeted patients who were unaware of their HIV status when they entered the health care system, whether at a hospital, clinic, routine medical or emergency room visit. Calculations were then done to measure the incremental costs and benefits across the lifetime of typical patients. The analysis also assessed the cost-effectiveness with and without considering the benefits to the sexual partners of the patients.

It is estimated that 1 million people in the United States are infected with HIV. Of this number, about 280,000 are unaware of their HIV infection. Current HIV screening guidelines are inconsistent and many people are not diagnosed in the early phases of their disease.


WITH THE EXPIRATION of its laboratory management contract with Duke University Health System, MDS Diagnostic Services comes one step closer to resolving its business interests in the United States.

In March 2004, MDS sold its lab operations in Poughkeepsie, New York and Atlanta, Georgia to Laboratory Corporation of America. It was predicted at that time by THE DARK REPORT that MDS Diagnostic Services was in the process of unwinding all its laboratory service commitments in the United States. (See TDR, April 5, 2004.)

So it was no surprise when MDS announced on September 4, 2004 that it had sold its interest in Memphis Pathology Laboratories (MPL) to American Esoteric Laboratories, Inc. MDS timed that sale to coincide with the expiration of its contract with the other hospital owners of MPL. (See TDR, October 11, 2004.)

In concluding its management agreement with Duke, MDS Diagnostic Services is left with just one laboratory joint venture. That is Integrated Regional LaboratoriesHCA Inc., the nation’s largest for-profit hospital corporation. THE DARK REPORT expects that, when the joint venture contract expires between HCA and MDS, MDS will sell its interest in IRL, leaving it with no laboratory operations in the United States.


CIGNA CORP. WILL ATTACK morbid obesity by proactively helping individuals diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

Although 5% of the U.S. population is morbidly obese, 24% are believed to have metabolic syndrome. These are people with at least three of the five factors for metabolic disease. They are hypertension, high levels of cholesterol or triglycerides, abnormal blood sugar, and obesity concentrated in the abdomen.

Alert readers will note that most of these five risk factors require laboratory tests as part of the diagnosis. Thus, Cigna’s proactive healthcare initiative will increase laboratory test utilization among the targeted population. It is estimated that 20% of all healthcare costs are spent on obesity-related conditions.


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