High-tech cabinet tracks contrast agents

January 2, 2008

VistaTrak, a product previewed by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals at the RSNA meeting, offers hospitals a unique way to manage their use of contrast media and improve efficiency, reduce costs, and safeguard patients.

VistaTrak, a product previewed by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals at the RSNA meeting, offers hospitals a unique way to manage their use of contrast media and improve efficiency, reduce costs, and safeguard patients.

"VistaTrak allows hospitals to not only track their inventory of contrast agents but to watch for patient safety issues, which are becoming critically important when contrast agents are used in an MR or CT suite," said Douglas Stefanelli, vice president and general manager of diagnostic imaging for Bayer. "It also helps compliance with Joint Commission (on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations) standards."

VistaTrak looks like a wall-hung cabinet designed to house bottles of contrast agents. But built into its walls and shelves are sensors that read radiofrequency identification (RFID) chips attached to contrast agent bottles. As each bottle is removed from the cabinet, the sensors read the lot number, expiration date, and other information, transmitting data directly to an inventory management system. Managers can use this information to track product utilization and determine when stocks need to be replenished. The system can also check automatically for compliance with dosing protocols.

When linked to an electronic medical record or radiology information system, VistaTrak can flag information that may affect the use of contrast material, such as a patient's glomerular filtration rate (an indicator of kidney disease) or potential allergic reactions, a cochlear implant, or a pacemaker. The password-protected cabinet further safeguards patients by restricting access to staff who are provided specially designed badges or PIN codes.

VistaTrak is scheduled to begin shipping in mid-2008. Bayer's MR contrast agent Magnevist will be the first product to carry a VistaTrak RFID tag. Pilot testing indicates that hospitals performing about 5000 contrast-enhanced procedures annually should see their investment in VistaTrak returned in two to three years, according to Scott Bertetti, Bayer's associate director of business development for diagnostic imaging.

VistaTrak answers some of the challenges facing providers who are being tasked by federal and state regulators, as well as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, to reduce medication errors. In 2003, the JCAHO wrote standards addressing the labeling, storage, and handling of contrast material, and defined how contrast media are to be administered and adverse events reported.

VistaTrak addresses these in an automated and cost-effective way, according to the Bayer executives. Its underlying technology was developed by Mobile Aspects, which specializes in the development of systems that track products used in operating rooms and interventional suites, such as catheters and stents. It was customized by Bayer and Mobile Aspects specifically for the radiology department.

"We created a small cabinet, because real estate is at a premium in the radiology area," Bertetti said. "We also changed the interface to fit workflow in the radiology department and to address Joint Commission concerns about the use of contrast."

The Bayer executives describe the product as version 1.0 of their contrast media management system.

"We will bring out other versions and update the software as we move forward," Stefanelli said. "We'll learn more about what customers need as we work with them. We then will customize the machines and the software to meet those needs."