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Awarepoint Expands Patent Portfolio

San Diego-based Awarepoint Corp. says it has four new patents for real-time wireless location systems that hospitals use to keep track of medical equipment, patients and overall work flow.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office awarded the patents in November, bringing the total number of patents Awarepoint holds to 20.

Awarepoint, funded by $60 million in venture capital, sells its systems to hospitals seeking to lower their costs by better managing their equipment. The company estimates that 15 percent of hospital equipment is missing or misplaced at any given time, often due to staff members hiding it because they’re worried they won’t be able to find it when they need it. As a result, hospitals spend more money than they need on equipment, and staff wastes time looking for missing items.

The new patents include one for a method of automatically determining if surgical supplies have been properly sterilized. “Sometimes equipment that’s been used in surgery ends up in the sterilized area but isn’t actually sterilized before it goes out again,” said Awarepoint Chief Technology Officer Matt Perkins, one of the inventors named in the patents.

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He said Awarepoint is the only company with tracking tags that can “survive a full sterilization cycle and alert on decontamination and sterilization violations” before the equipment is used on another patient. “Our technology effectively saves lives,” Perkins said.

The other three patents include new technologies for more accurately detecting where equipment is located and a work-flow management system.

Awarepoint says its systems are used at 177 hospital sites, tracking more than 2 million patients each year.

— Kelly Quigley

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