WO2005071978A1 - Systems for and methods of tracking rfid tagged items - Google Patents

Systems for and methods of tracking rfid tagged items Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2005071978A1
WO2005071978A1 PCT/US2005/001887 US2005001887W WO2005071978A1 WO 2005071978 A1 WO2005071978 A1 WO 2005071978A1 US 2005001887 W US2005001887 W US 2005001887W WO 2005071978 A1 WO2005071978 A1 WO 2005071978A1
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
prescription
rfid
prescriptions
information
tracking
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2005/001887
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Richard J. Campero
William J. Carpenter
Katherine L. Garmey
James M. Kress
Original Assignee
Meadwestvaco Corporation
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US53838904P priority Critical
Priority to US60/538,389 priority
Application filed by Meadwestvaco Corporation filed Critical Meadwestvaco Corporation
Publication of WO2005071978A1 publication Critical patent/WO2005071978A1/en

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06KRECOGNITION OF DATA; PRESENTATION OF DATA; RECORD CARRIERS; HANDLING RECORD CARRIERS
    • G06K17/00Methods or arrangements for effecting co-operative working between equipments covered by two or more of the preceding main groups, e.g. automatic card files incorporating conveying and reading operations

Abstract

An apparatus, method for tracking items is disclosed. A tracking system is provided for tracking an item or object (e.g., prescription in a pharmacy). Preferably, the tracking system associates the item or object (70) with an identifier (e.g., RFID tag 60) which may be used to identify the location of the tracked item or object and determine other pertinent information related to the tracked item or object using plural antennas (151, 152, 153).

Description

SYSTEMS FOR AND METHODS OF TRACKING RFID TAGGED ITEMS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/538,389, filed January 21, 2004, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems typically use one or more RFID reader antennae to send radio frequency (RF) signals to items tagged with RFID tags. The use of such RFID tags to identify an item or person is well known in the art. In response to the radio frequency (RF) signals from an RFID reader antenna, the RFID tags, when excited, produce a disturbance in the magnetic field (or electric field) that is detected by the RFID reader antenna. Typically, such tags are passive tags that are excited or resonate in response to the RF signal from an RFID reader antenna when the tags are within the detection range of the RFID reader antenna.

[0003] Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems typically use one or more reader antennae to send radio frequency (RF) signals to items tagged with RFID tags. The use of such RFID tags to identify an item or person is well known in the art. In response to the radio frequency (RF) signals from a reader antenna, the RFID tags, when excited, produce a disturbance in the magnetic field (or electric field) that is detected by the reader antenna. Typically, such tags are passive tags that are excited or resonate in response

DSMDB.1871990.3 to the RF signal from a reader antenna when the tags are within the detection range of the reader antenna.

[0004] The detection range of the RFID systems is typically limited by signal strength to short ranges. Therefore, portable reader units maybe moved past a group of tagged items in order to detect all the tagged items, particularly where the tagged items are stored in a space significantly greater than the detection range of a stationary or fixed single RFID reader antenna. Alternately, a large RFID reader antenna with sufficient power and range to detect a larger number of tagged items may be used. However, such an antenna may be unwieldy and may increase the range of the radiated power beyond acceptable limits. Furthermore, RFID reader antennae are often located in retail stores or other locations where space is at a premium and it is expensive and inconvenient to use large RFID reader antennae. In another possible solution, multiple small antennae may be used but such a configuration may be awkward to set up when space is at a premium and when wiring is preferably hidden.

[0005] Current RFID reader antennae are designed so that a sufficient read range may be maintained between the RFID reader antenna and associated RFID tags, without exceeding FCC limitations on radiated emissions.

[0006] Currently methods of locating items withiri a facility include registering a location of an item in a computer and placing an item in a specific location. Often, items are misplaced and become difficult to locate.

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

Therefore, it may be desired to RFID tag items and develop an improved system and method of tracking items within a facility.

SUMMARY

[0007] An apparatus, method, and artide of manufacture for tracking items is disdosed. In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, a tracking system is provided for trackirig an item or object (e.g., prescription in a pharmacy). Preferably, the tracking system associates the item or object with an identifier (e.g., RFID tag) which may be used to identify the location of the tracked item or object and determine other pertinent information related to the tracked item or object.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0008] FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting an exemplary tracking system in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0009] FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting an exemplary tracking system for use in multiple locations (or with multiple types of tracked items) in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0010] FIG. 3 is a block diagram depicting an exemplary tracking system applied to a retail environment in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0011] FIG. 4 illustrates an exemplary method of tracking items in a retail environment accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0012] FIG. 5 illustrates an exemplary method of retrieving and verifying items in a retail environment in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0013] FIG. 6 illustrates an exemplary pad that contains an RFID reader antenna(e) that may be used in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0014] FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary user interface that may be used in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

[0015] FIGs. 8-10 illustrate exemplary RFID enabled storage units in accordance with embodiments of the invention; and

[0016] FIGs. 11-21 illustrate exemplary implementations of an item management process in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0017] Preferred embodiments, implementations, and applications of the invention will now be described. Other embodiments, implementations, and applications of the invention may be realized and changes may be made to those disclosed without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Although the preferred embodiments disclosed herein have been particularly described as applied to the field of RFID technology, it should be readily apparent that the invention may be embodied in any technology havirLg the same or similar problems. Furthermore, while the examples herein are particularly described in relation to an item management system, for 4

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 example, a prescription tracking system used in a retail pharmacy, it should be readily apparent that the invention may be embodied or applied in other forms and in other facilities and environments.

[0018] An exemplary embodiment of the invention may be implemented as illustrated in FIG. 1. An exemplary Tracking Unit 100 may be provided, preferably including a Controller 110 coupled to a Local Database 115, a Reader 140, and User Interface Devices 130. In this embodiment. Controller 110 may include one or more central processing units (CPUs) or other calculating or processing devices to provide processing of input/output data between Tracking Unit 100, Network 160, Local Database 115, a -Reader 140, and User Interface Devices 130.

[0019] Preferably, Controller 110 executes one or more computer- executable programs stored in memory (e.g., Local Database 115, etc.). Local Database 115 may indude one or more memory devices comprising any recordable or rewritable medium for storing information (e.g., hard drive, flash RAM, optical disc, compact disc, memory card, DVD, etc.). User Interface Devices 130 include any device that can be used to enter information (e.g., commands, data, etc.) into Controller 110 (e.g., keyboard, touch screen, wireless device, PDA, infrared device, radio frequency device, etc.).

[0020] In a preferred embodiment of the invention, Tracking Unit 100 may further indude Reader 140. Reader 140 can be used to interrogate, read, or otherwise activate one or more reader antennae (e.g., Reader antennae 151- 153) coupled to Reader 140. The reader antennae may include diversity

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 antennae of the type described in International Patent Application PCT/US2004/023704, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. In this illustrated embodiment, Reader antennael51-153 are incorporated in (i.e., affixed to, integrated with, or otherwise coupled to) Locality Structures 105 and may include tuning circuitry as described in US Patent Application No. 10/338,892, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety. Reader 140 transmits the information obtained from Reader antennae 151-153 to Controller 110 in a manner well known in the art.

[0021] In a preferred embodiment, Reader antennae 151-153 may be affixed to, integrated with, or otherwise coupled to any mobile or stationary object. Reader antennae 151-153 are preferably RFID reader antennae capable of generating radio frequency waves 50. The radio frequency waves interact with RFID tags 60 which can be affixed to, integrated with, or otherwise coupled to an item or object 70 (e.g., product, employee, customer, etc.). An RFID tag 60, when exdted by radio frequency waves 50, produces a disturbance in the magnetic field (or electric field) that is detected by RFID reader antennae as information (e.g., RFID identifier, etc.). Preferably, reader 140 may be instructed by Controller 110, for example, to interrogate, read, or otherwise activate one or more reader antennae (e.g., Reader antennaelδl- 153).

[0022] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, sensors may be utilized (e.g., affixed to a mobile or stationary object, etc.) to provide additional information regarding the environment of objects being monitored or their surroundings. In this exemplary implementation, Sensors 121-123 are

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 coupled to Locality Structures 105 and provide additional information to Controller 110. Sensors 121-123 can include weight sensors, vibration sensors, pressure sensors, pushbutton sensors, infrared sensors, optical sensors, audio sensors, etc. In a preferred embodiment, other sensing signals 85 can provide additional information to Controller 110 which can be combined information from Sensors 121-123 or independently provided to Controller 110.

[0023] Tracking Unit 100 may be connected directly or indirectly (e.g., through network 160, as shown in FIG. 1) to one or more Remote Applications 170 coupled to Main Database 180. Network 160 may represent any type of communication configuration that allows Tracking Unit 100 and Remote Application 170 to exchange information. For example, Network 160 may be a Local Area Network (LAN), a Wide Area Network (WAN), Bluetooth™, and/or a combination of networks, such as the Internet. Network 160 may also include the infrastructure that allows Tracking Unit 100 and Remote Application 170 to exchange information using wireless based communications.

[0024] Preferably, Local Database 115 and Main Database 180, in each instance, may include one or more storage device systems that store information (e.g., computer executable programs, data regarding products and/or facilities, etc.) used by Tracking Unit 100 and/or Remote Application 170. The term "database" can refer to the means for storage of more than one data file, computer executable program, or table. In a preferred embodiment, Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180 may comprise more than one 7

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 database or a series of databases housed locally or in a remote location. Such databases may be controlled, for example, by a database server (not shown), such as an SQL database server. A Java DataBase Connectivity (JDBC) driver for the SQL server may also be used to access the SQL server database. Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180 may be embodied within Tracking Unit 100, or external to Tracking Unit 100, for example, on a server (not shown). Furthermore, Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180 may be shared with more than one Tracking Unit 100.

[0025] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180 may be used to store item or object information (e.g., identification information regarding an item such as Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) data, etc.). The SKU information may indude item type, manufacturer and origin, size, color, style, as well as a wide variety of other types of information that are understood by those skilled in the art. Such item information may be stored, for example, in tables maintained on Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180, or in any other remote/local database or system. Examples of item in ormation include, but are not limited to:

[0026] (1) A Uniform Product Code (UPC) and/or an Electronic Product Identification Code (EPIC). It should be understood that items made by a certain manufacturer in a certain size, color, etc. may have all the same UPC but ead may have a unique EPIC;

[0027] (2) Current price of the item;

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0028] (3) Seasonality of the item. A seasonality indicator may represent a relationship between an item and a period of time associated with different events or seasons. For example, some products such as insulin or cholesterol medication may have a seasonality indicator representing no seasonal characteristics, such as "no season," whereas cold and flu remedies may have a "winter" indicator, or a medication for poison ivy may have a "summer" indicator, etc. Further, some items (e.g., those items that are being specially marketed by a manufacturer or retailer) may have a seasonality indicator associated with a time frame (e.g., "Winter <year>"). The seasonality indicators may be used to determine when to remove or restock certain items in inventory; and

[0029] (4) Shelf life of the item. The term "shelf life" can refer to a period of time that an item may be allowed to be included in inventory and sold. For example, perishable products may have a limited period of time that they may be kept in stock before sale to a customer.

[0030] Additionally, for an item collection of a certain type (e.g., an individual box of any type of item), examples of stored item information indude, but are not limited to, the following:

[0031] (1) The EPIC of the item;

[0032] (2) The UPC of the item which can be assodated with the SKU information described above;

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0033] (3) Other types of information not directly known from the SKU (e.g., color, style, size, etc.);

[0034] (4) A serial number associated with the item (if other than the EPIC);

[0035] (5) A cost of the item to a business entity associated with its use, such as a retailer;

[0036] (6) A date the item was first placed in a particular location or locations;

[0037] (7) The expiration date of the item (if any);

[0038] (8) Item location information representing a current physical location of the item (or if sold, the last known location of the item);

[0039] (9) The price at which an item was sold (if already sold);

[0040] (10) The date the item was sold (if already sold);

[0041] (11) The preferred customer number of a purchaser (if already sold) representing a unique number assigned to a User that purchases or may purchase items; and

[0042] (12) A unique serial number associated with the RFID tag 60, for example, an identification number written to the RFID tag 60 by its manufacturer.

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[0043] One skilled in the art will appreciate that the above examples of item information are not intended to be limiting. Local Database 115 and/or Main Database 180 may include more or fewer tables or other configurations of item information used by Remote Application 170 and/or Tracking Unit 100. Some or all of the information in Main Database 180 may also be stored in Local Database 115.

[0044] Preferred embodiments of the invention can be embodied in a computer executable medium (or other article of manufacture) stored in any device or system having storage means (e.g., hard drive, flash drive, DVD, CD etc.) and used by any device capable of performing execution. The computer readable medium can be used in (or by), for example, Controller 110 according to preferred embodiments of the invention described herein.

[0045] Any number of different applications of the various embodiments described (or derived) from the disdosure herein may be made. An exemplary application of a preferred embodiment of the invention is the tracking system illustrated in FIG. 2. The blocks "Location/Type 1 (500)" and "Location/Type 2 (510)" are provided in FIG. 2 to represent one or more (remote or local) locations in which one or more tracked items or objects may be created, placed, or otherwise stored. Exemplary locations may include a shelf, bin, refrigerator, safe, etc. The blocks are also provided to represent one or more different types or categories of tracked items or objects that may be stored in the same location (or in different locations), but be of a different type, category, etc.

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0046] Where, for example, the tracked items are coupled to an RFID tag, blocks 500, 510 may incorporate some or all of the features of Tracking Unit 100 and Locality Structures 105 (FIG. 2), as described above, in order to obtain information regarding the location/type of RFID tagged items found within the domain (e.g., geographic location, designated type to be tracked, etc.) respectively assigned to blocks 500, 510.

[0047] One or more locations or stations may be provided (including representative blocks 500, 510) to assign or otherwise associate an identifier (e.g., RFID tag) with an item (or type) to be tracked. In this embodiment, for example, Reading/Tagging Station 520 is provided as illustrated in FIG.2 to represent a location or means in which an RFID tagged item (or type) is initialized for tracking by the system. In a preferred embodiment, at Reading/Tagging Station 520, an item or object to be tracked may be assigned a number (or other designation) unique to that individual item (or type) through the affixing to, integrating with, or otherwise coupling of a unique RFID tag to the tracked item. The assigned designation may then be further associated with any identification or other data assodated with the item (or type). The tracked item may, for example, have a machine-readable identifier (e.g., bar code) thereon which may be used by Reading/Tagging Station 520 to associate the RFID tag with the individual item (or type of item). (Any additional or other information pertinent to the item or type may be associated with the RFID tag in a similar manner.) In another embodiment, the machine-readable identifier may be created prior to or at the time of associating the identifier with an item or type of item. In addition, the RFID

12

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 tag may be written prior to or at the same time of assodating the identifier with an item or type of item.

[0048] To implement these functions, Reading/Tagging Station 520 may incorporate one or more machine readers (e.g., bar code scanner, RFID reader, etc.) for reading (or otherwise detecting) identifying information from the RFID tag and the item, a database (or other storage device) for storing (or at least providing access to such a database) information pertinent to the individual item (or type of item), as well as a controller for controlling the components of the Station to perform the functions.

[0049] An exemplary commerdal application for the Tracking System in accordance with a preferred embodiment is a retail Prescription Tracking System, as illustrated in FIG. 3. In this commercial application, Reading/Tagging Station 520 of FIG. 2 can be implemented using one or more of the following modules: Quality Assurance Unit (QA unit) 210; QA Pad 211; bar code scanner 212; and Pharmacy Host 215. QA unit 210 may incorporate one or more of the components and features of Tracking Unit 100, as described above. QA unit 210 is preferably coupled to QA Pad 211, which may be used to fadlitate the reading of one or more RFID tags. (These RFID tags have been (or will be) designated for use as an identifier for items or objects to be tracked by the system.) In another embodiment, QA unit 210 and QA Pad 211 are used to interrogate one or more RFID tags to obtain, for example, a machine-readable identifier. For illustration purposes, each given item or object (e.g., prescription) is already assodated with a machine- readable identifier in the form of a UPC or other bar code. A bar code 13

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 scanner 212 may be used to read the bar code identifier and provide the encoded information to QA unit 210. As will be described below, this encoded information (and other information pertinent to the item) can then be assodated with the information (e.g., RFID identifier) obtained from reading of the RFID tag designated for use with that given item or object. The association of this information may be transferred and stored in Pharmacy Host 215. (Pharmacy Host 215 represents a computer, database, or other processing and/or storage mechanism that may be locally or remotely located for use with QA unit 210. Pharmacy Host 215 may also be used to store other information (e.g., patient name/address, physician issuing order for prescribed drug, patient prescription history, known patient allergies, status of prescription, location of prescription, dosage instructions, other prescription orders to be filled, etc.) pertinent to the tracked item or object. This other pertinent information may also be stored (in addition or instead) in any other local/remote database (e.g., database provided for use in/with QA unit 210).)

[0050] One of Location/Type blocks 500, 510 of FIG. 2 can be implemented using one or more of the following modules: Point-of-Sale (POS) Unit 240, Touch Screen 241, Switch 242, POS Pad 243, and Oversize Pad 244. A different implementation of Location/Type blocks 500, 510 can be implemented using one or more of the following similar modules (as shown in FIG. 3): POS Unit 250, Touch Screen 251, Switch 252, POS Pad 253, and Refrigerator Pad 254. In accordance with a preferred embodiment, Network 160 is preferably in communication with first and second POS Units 240, 250.

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The POS Units 240, 250 may incorporate the features of Tracking Unit 100. The first POS Unit 240 may be connected through a Switch 242 to RFID antennae within POS Pad 243 and Oversize Pad 244. A Touch Screen Monitor 241 may be in communication with the first POS Unit 240. The second POS unit 250 may be connected through a Switch 252 to RFID antennae within POS Pad 253 and Refrigerator Pad 254. Touch Screen Monitor 251 may be in communication with second POS Unit 250. Switches 242, 252 or other switches (not shown) may be implemented using the switches described in U.S. Patent Application No. 10/338,892, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

[0051] An additional Location/Type block can be implemented using one or more of the following modules: Bin Controller Unit 220, Bins 221-226, Switch 230, Antibiotic Zone 231, and Ready Zones 232, 233. Preferably, Network 160 is in communication with Bin Controller Unit 220. Bin Controller Unit 220 may incorporate the features of the Tracking Unit 100. The Bin Controller Unit 220 may be connected to RFID antennae within Bins 221-226, Antibiotic Zone 231, and Ready Zones 232, 233. (Switch devices between Bin Controller Unit 220 and Bins 221-226 may be used, but are not shown in FIG. 3.)

[0052] In addition to the operation of the Location/Type blocks (500, 510) discussed above, the foregoing modules (210, 211 . . . 254) maybe operated in the manner discussed below in accordance with commercial application of preferred embodiments of the invention in a retail pharmacy environment.

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[0053] An exemplary implementation of method of tracking a prescription in a retail pharmacy environment in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 4. Preferably, the steps of the illustrated method are continually repeated starting with step 300, which assumes the next prescription to be filled by a user (e.g., user, pharma st, etc.) is taken up. In step 305, the user gains access to the system (e.g., enters his initials into the system). In step 310, the user retrieves the next prescription to be processed. The user may, for example, retrieve a prescription from a temporary holding basket. The baskets may be color coded to indicate the urgency of filling the prescriptions. The contents of the basket may include a prescription form, a container for holding the prescribed medicine or drug, the prescribed drug (if separate from the container), and a prescription label for attaching, affixing, or otherwise coupling to the container. A pressure sensitive adhesive prescription label may be attached to the container at this step (or any other step in the process prior to step 345). The prescription label may incorporate an RFID tag. Alternatively (or in addition), an RFID tag may have been attached to, integrated with, or otherwise coupled to the container during manufacturing, during handling of the container, or at this step in the process. The prescription form and the prescription label may be printed together and may include a machine readable-identifier (e.g., bar code).

[0054] In step 315, the prescription container is placed on or near an RFID reader antenna (e.g., QA Pad 211), which in step 320, detects the RFID tag on the prescription container and reads information from the RFID tag. An indication of a successful read may be provided by a visual and/or audible

16

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 signal. In step 325, the machine-readable identifier on the prescription form or prescription label is read, for example, by a bar code scanning device 212 scanning a bar code on the form/label.

[0055] In step 330, information regarding the prescription may then be obtained, based on the bar code, from a Pharmacy Host 215 (or other remote/local computer or database). Also in step 330, data from the bar code and the RFID tag may be associated with an item or items (e.g., by QA unit 210) and stored (e.g., in Pharmacy Host 215, or other (remote/local) computer or database).

[0056] In step 332, verification may be made that the drug within the container matches the prescribed drug (e.g., checking that it matches an onscreen digital image or inventory in the bottle (or location) from which the prescription contents should have been taken). Printed instructions to the patient and refill information may be checked and verified against the original prescription.

[0057] In step 335, the prescription form is coupled (e.g., stapled, affixed, etc.) to the filled prescription or any means for dispensing the filled prescription (e.g., a prescription bag). In step 340, the filled prescription is placed, if applicable, into the prescription bag and in step 345, the filled prescription is placed into an intended waiting location. Due to the variety of procedures for handling filled prescriptions, the intended waiting locations may vary.

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[0058] The filled prescription may be placed in one or more temporary holding areas, e.g., Ready Zone 232, until the filled prescription is placed in its usual (i.e., not requiring special handling/storage) waiting location. The Ready Zone 232 may have one or more RFID reader antennae for reading, mterrogating or otherwise activating the RFID tags coupled to the filled prescriptions stored in the Ready Zone 232. For some filled prescriptions, such as those requiring special storage (e.g., refrigeration), it is preferable to immediately place the filled prescription into its intended waiting location (e.g., storage refrigerator). Other filled prescriptions requiring special handling (e.g., antibiotics) maybe placed in designated waiting areas (e.g., the Antibiotic Zone 231), where the RFID tag is periodically read by RFID reader antenna incorporated into the waiting area (e.g., at the Antibiotic zone 231).

[0059] A filled prescription that will be refrigerated, for example, may be placed on or near the Refrigerator Pad 254 until the Refrigerator Pad 254 reads the RFID tag 60 associated with (e.g., attached to the prescription container) the filled prescription. An audible or visual indication may be used to denote a successful read (e.g., that the filled prescription is "checked in"). The filled prescription ma be then placed in the refrigerator 380. A similar process maybe used for other waiting locations (e.g., a safe, etc.) where it may be convenient to use a "check-in" RFID reader such as Pad 254. Oversized items may be placed on Oversized Pad 244 in order for their RFID tag(s) to be read, after which the oversized items may be placed in a waiting location that may or may not have an associated RFID reader. (Alternately

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(or in addition), RFID antennae that may be incorporated into or around structures (e.g., shelves, etc.) of the waiting areas (e.g., refrigerator, safe, oversize storage structure, etc.), as well as other devices (e.g., handheld reader, etc.) may be used to remove the need for (or supplement) the use of separate "check-in" pads (e.g., Pads 244, 254).)

[0060] In step 350, the filled prescription is moved from the Ready Zone 232 into an appropriate waiting area such as Waiting Bins 221-223. The prescriptions placed in the Waiting Bins 221-223 may be automatically read by RFID reader antennae located in (or around) the Waiting Bins 221-223. Preferably, the filled prescriptions are stored in the Waiting Bins 221-233, Refrigerator 380, Oversized Bin 375, Antibiotic Zone 231 or other intended waiting location until either the prescription is picked up or removed for failure to be picked up for a set period.

[0061] The reader antennae described in these commercial implementations, including those incorporated into bins, pads and waiting areas may be frequently interrogated in order to locate each filled prescription. The information associated (e.g., from reading RFID tags machine-readable identifiers) in accordance with preferred embodiments of the invention provides a number of advantages (e.g., allows for the pharmacy to locate specific prescriptions that have been on the shelves too long or has not yet been picked up, allows for user to specifically locate prescriptions to be retrieved from the waiting bins, etc.).

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[0062] An exemplary implementation of a method of retrieving a filled prescription in a retail pharmacy environment in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention is illustrated in FIG. 5. Preferably, the steps of the illustrated method are continually repeated starting with step 400, which assumes the next filled prescription to be retrieved for a customer (e.g., patient, etc.) is taken up. In step 405, the identity of a given customer is presented to the system (e.g., last name of the next customer is entered into the system). In step 410, the system may display all names that match the entered name. In step 415, the user chooses the correct customer (e.g., using address, date of birth or other verification information provided by the customer). In step 420, the Prescription Tracking System provides the location of all (filled/unfilled) prescriptions for the selected customer. The system may report the exact location based on a previous RF read cycle of the waiting bins and other locations in the pharmacy. If applicable, in step 425, the user may go to the bin (or other location) as identified to find the filled prescription(s).

[0063] In step 430, the user may bring the filled prescriptions to a pick-up area and place them on an RFID reader (e.g., POS Pad 243) or other device for reading the RFID tag assodated with the filled prescription. In step 435, the RFID reader (e.g., in POS Pad 243) will read the RFID tags of all of the prescriptions placed on or otherwise within its range.

[0064] In step 440, verification can be made that the customer is receiving the correct prescriptions, as well as receiving all of its prescriptions. For example, in step 445, the system may determine whether all the filled 20

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 prescriptions being read (e.g., on the POS Pad 243) are for the selected customer. If the system determines that at least one prescription is not for the selected customer, in step 450 the dispensing (e.g., the sales transaction) of the filled prescriptions is inhibited. In step 455, the user may return any incorrect prescriptions to the waiting areas. If all of the prescriptions are all for the selected customer, the dispensing (e.g., sales transadion) may proceed in step 460. Additionally, in step 465, the system determines whether all of the selected customer's prescriptions entered in the system are provided for reading (e.g., by POS Pad 243). If all of such prescriptions are not included in the prescriptions being read (e.g., by POS Pad 243), the user may return to step 425 and retrieve the additional prescriptions. If the customer's prescriptions were all retrieved, in step 470, the user may choose to validate the prescriptions and dispense the prescriptions to the customer before continuing with the next customer in step 400.

[0065] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, each prescription to be tracked by the illustrated Prescription Tracking System is preferably associated with a unique RFID tag number. Preferably, for each of the unique tag numbers, the prescription tracking system associates and stores (e.g., in a local/remote database, computer, or other storage device) information pertinent to the prescription and/or pertinent to the intended customer (e.g., patient receiving the prescription). As an example, such information may indude one or more of the following: RFID tag serial number, Prescription ID Number, Customer Name, Address And Date Of Birth, Initial Date/Time Stamp (refers to the moment the customer is associated with the Prescription

21

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 number), Location, QA, Ready Zone, Antibiotic Area, Refrigerator, Zone- specific Waiting Bin Area, Oversized Bin(s), Drug name, Drug quantity, Prescription refills, Date/Time Sold, Validation indicator, NDC Code (National Drug Code), etc.

[0066] The Pads 211, 243, 253 (or other pads referred to herein) may be any known device incorporating one or more reader antennae as is known in the art. The Pads may be, for example, the Low Profile Pad (LPP) incorporating an RFID reader antenna(e), as shown in FIG. 6, that may be capable of audible, visual, or other signals to confirm a successful RFID tag read. The notification may ensure that the tags are associated with the proper prescription information. The Pad may be used in the form shown, or it may be hidden, for example under a counter. Alternately, the functionality may be incorporated into some structure other than a pad (e.g., a countertop, shelf, handheld unit, etc.). Additionally, the RFID reader may be used in conjunction with other readers, for example, a bar code reader, where a user may scan a machine readable code as part of the QA process. One or more of the other modules (e.g., Pick-up/Point-of-Sale (POS) Unit 240, etc.) described for these commercial implementations may incorporate or utilize QA Pad 211.

[0067] FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary display of a user interface that may be employed in these commercial implementations. The monitor may be a touch-screen type, or allow for another method of input. The system of Graphical User Interface (GUI) is described with a touch-screen display. However, it is recognized that other User input devices may also be used for interacting with the system. 22

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0068] FIG. 8 illustrates an exemplary set of storage bins that may be utilized as Waiting Bins 221-223 (or other holding devices). The storage bins may be fitted with individual bin "liners" or otherwise incorporate RFID antennae. The reader antennae may also be incorporated in any other structure within proximity of the Waiting bins. The Waiting Bins 221-223 may be inserted into support structures such as wire bin shelving or other shelving. Preferably, the RFID antennae incorporated into the bins may provide localization ability down to a specific bin in which a filled prescription is located.

[0069] FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary storage bin that may be utilized as a holding device such as one used for the Antibiotic Zone 231. It may incorporate the same or similar RFID antennae as used in Waiting Bins 221- 223. The Antibiotic Zone 231 is preferably located proximate to the area used to store antibiotic prescriptions.

[0070] FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary Oversized Zone Bin or Ready Zone Bin incorporating one or more RFID reader antennae. The bins may have high sidewalls in order to read larger, non-standard shaped items. Additionally, if the bin is for larger items, the bin size and incorporated antennae could be modified to the appropriate bin size.

[0071] RFID reader antennae may be incorporated within a refrigerator or a Refrigerator Pad 254. The Refrigerator Pad 254 may be a low-profile reader and may be used in close proximity to a refrigerator to "check in" prescriptions that are stored in the refrigerator. For very large items that do

23

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 not fit in an Oversized Bin, an Oversized Pad 244, a hand-held or other RFID reader (not shown) may be used to "check-in" the prescription.

[0072] An exemplary implementation of methods of accessing information (e.g., patient information, related prescriptions, location, etc.) pertinent to a tracked item (e.g., prescription) for the foregoing illustrated application of a retail pharmacy environment will be described below in connection with FIGs. 11-15. FIG. 11 particularly illustrates an exemplary Customer Search Screen. Ideally this screen is provided as the primary screen and the starting point for each new customer prescription search and validation. The Customer Search Screen allows the user to request a list of customers whose prescriptions have been tagged and associated, but do not yet have a validation date (i.e., have not been sold). A user can control the scope of the list of customers by applying a search filter. The filter, for example, allows for any portion of a customer's name to be entered, including their complete name.

[0073] Additionally, the screen and system provides several features including:

[0074] FI: Waiting Bin Reports;

[0075] F2: NDC Inventory Report;

[0076] F3: Disaster Recovery Report;

[0077] F4: Return to Waiting Bin;

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[0078] F5: Return to Inventory;

[0079] F6: Future Use;

[0080] F7: Future Use;

[0081] F8: Home Button (returns the user to the Customer Search screen to begin a new prescription search); and

[0082] Customer: (Feature 2) opens a field that displays the customer name as typed by the user using the keyboard letters;

[0083] Search: (Feature 3) Once the full or partial name is entered, the user may select the "Search" button to provide a listing of all prescriptions containing the characters entered in "Customer" field. Selecting the "Search" button will prompt a screen change to the Search Results Screen; and

[0084] Keyboard: (Feature 4) The touchscreen may incorporate a traditional keyboard image, which provides the characters to fill the "Customer" field.

[0085] FIG. 12 illustrates an exemplary Search Result Screen. The screen illustrates the result of the initial customer search. The screen allows the user to view a listing of all customer names that match the search criteria entered on the Customer Search Screen. The information may be sorted by any specified field.

[0086] On this screen, the user may select or deselect any name(s) on the list by touching the "Select" button to the left of the appropriate name(s). When a customer name is selected, the button may turn green; when the 25

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 customer name is deselected, the button may turn a different color. From this screen, the user may "Locate Prescriptions" for selected customers, "Search Additional" for another customer(s), or "Cancel All" and return to the Customer Search Screen. Features of the Search Results Screen include:

[0087] Select: Allows the user to select the customer as the correct prescription redpient. Multiple customers may be selected. Customers may be deselected by touching the button a second time;

[0088] Name: Displays the alphabetic listing of all names that either equal the typed value from the Customer Search Screen or contain some portion of the characters typed into the "Customer Name" field;

[0089] Street: The address on record for the individual listed in the "Name" field;

[0090] City: The city on record for the individual listed in the "Name" field;

[0091] Date of Birth: DOB on record for the individual listed in the "Name" field;

[0092] Scroll Bar: Traditional scroll bar that allows the user to scroll up or down in order to see all possible names returned by the search criteria;

[0093] Search Additional: Takes the user to the Additional Customer Search Screen if additional prescriptions are being picked up for a customer

26

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

with a different name. Selecting this button can save all customers previously selected on the Customer Search Results screen;

[0094] Locate scripts: Once the user selects a customer(s), the "Locate scripts" button will locate all prescriptions for that customer. Selecting the button will take the user to the Locate Prescriptions Results screen (FIG. 15); and

[0095] Cancel All: This button cancels the transaction and takes the user to the Customer Search Screen. A popup window displays and prompts the user to confirm that they wish to cancel the current transaction. Selecting "Yes" returns the user to the Customer Search Screen and deletes the current search. Selecting "No" returns the user to the Customer Search Results Screen.

[0096] FIG. 13 shows an exemplary Additional Customer Search Screen. This screen is functionally identical to the Customer Search Screen, but is only chosen if the user wishes to locate additional customers other than the ones selected on the previous Customer Search Results Screen. Ideally, this screen cannot be accessed if the user has canceled or completed a previous transadion. The exemplary features of this screen include:

[0097] Customer: (Feature 1) A field that displays the customer name as typed by the user using the keyboard letters;

[0098] Search Additional: (Feature 2) Button selected once the full or partial name is entered to provide a listing of all prescriptions containing the

27

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 characters entered in the "Customer" field. Selecting the "Search Additional" button will prompt the screen to change to the Additional Customer Search Results Screen;

[0099] Back: (Feature 3) This button returns the user to the Additional Customer Search Results Screen;

[O100] Previous Selections Saved: (Feature 4) This message is used to visually alert the user that the previous customers selected in the current session are saved and will be displayed with the search results on the Search Results Additional screen; and

[O101] Keyboard: (Feature 5) A traditional keyboard image which provides the characters to fill the "Customer" field.

[O102] FIG. 14 shows exemplary results of an Additional Customer Search. This screen displays the previously selected customers, along with search results from the Additional Customer Search Screen. The top pane of the screen provides a list of customer names that have previously been selected (e.g., the "Select" button is green). If there are more than four customer names, the scroll bars on the right will be activated to allow the user to view more customer names. The user may deselect any customer name on this list by touching the "Select" button to the left of the appropriate name.

[Ol 03] The bottom pane of the screen provides a list of all new customer names that match the search criteria entered on the Additional Customer Search Screen. The user may select or deselect any of these additional

28

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 customer names by touching the "Select" button to the left of the appropriate customer name(s). When a customer name is selected, the button turns green; when the customer name is deselected, the button turns a different color.

[0104] According to one feature of this illustrated implementation, if a customer name is duplicated and appears in both the top and bottom panes, any selection or de-selection of a customer automatically is reflected in the other pane.

[0105] From this screen, the user may "Locate Scripts" for selected customers, "Search Additional" for additional customers, or "Cancel All" and return to the Customer Search Screen. The features of the Additional Customer Search Results are as follows:

[0106] Select: (Feature 1) Allows the user to select the customer as the correct prescription redpient. Multiple customers may be selected. Customers may be deselected by touching the button a second time;

[0107] Name: (Feature 2) Displays the listing of all names that either equal the typed value from the Additional Customer Search Screen, or contain some portion of the characters typed into the Customer Name field;

[0108] Street: (Feature 3) Address on record for individual listed in "Name" field;

[0109] City: (Feature 4) City on record for the individual listed in the "Name" field;

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0110] Date of Birth: (Feature 5) DOB on record for individual listed in "Name;"

[0111] Scroll Bar: (Feature 6) Traditional scrollbar that allows the user to scroll up or down in order to see all possible names returned by the search criteria;

[0112] Search Additional: (FIG. 14, Feature 7) Takes the user to the Additional Customer Search Screen if prescriptions are being picked up for a customer with a different name. Selecting this button will save all customers previously selected on the Customer Search Results and Additional Customer Search Results screens.

[0113] Locate Scripts: (Feature 8) Locates all prescriptions for all selected customers. Selecting the "Locate Scripts" button will take the user to the Locate Prescriptions Results Screen (see FIG. 15);

[0114] Cancel All: (Feature 9) This button cancels the transaction and takes the user to the Customer Search Screen. A popup window displays (not shown) and prompts the user to confirm if they wish to cancel the current transaction. Selecting "Yes" returns the user to the Customer Search Screen. Selecting "No" returns the user to the current Additional Screen Results Screen.

[0115] FIG. 15 shows the results of an exemplary "Locate Scripts" operation. It allows the user to locate all active prescriptions for the selected customer (s) that do not have a validation sale or a return to inventory date.

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

The screen allows the user to easily identify the location of each customer's prescriptions via the Status column. If the prescription has been placed on the verification reader, the Status will show as "Validated." If the prescription has not been placed on the verification reader, the Status will contain one of the following exemplary locations in: Location (Bin #), Refrigerator, Antibiotic, Ready Zone, Oversized and Not Found.

[0116] Preferably, using this screen, the user may easily identify, via the color of the customer block, those customers that have successfully complete a full or partial transaction. When the screen initially displays, or when the "Refresh" button is selected, the customer block information is sorted by the primary key (i.e., Red, Blue, and Green), and the secondary keys (i.e., Customer Last Name, First Name, Street Address).

[0117] In the exemplary implementation described above, red indicates that a prescription is being read at check out that does not belong to a customer selected by the user. If any customer block is red, the "Complete Transaction" button will be disabled. In order to remove the red designations, the user may physically remove the prescription from the reader or select the "Remove" button next to the appropriate prescription line item and select the "Refresh" button. Additionally, if the customer's prescription is indeed being picked up, the customer may be added by selecting the "Add Customer" button which proceeds through the Additional Customer Search Screen.

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[0118] In the exemplary implementation described above, blue indicates that the customer's name has been selected, but either some or all of the prescriptions for that customer have not been placed on the verification reader. The missing prescriptions are displayed in a bold font and the location appears under the Status column. The user may place either some or all of the missing prescriptions on the verification reader and touch the "Refresh" button. The additional prescriptions that are placed on the verification reader will no longer appear in a bold font and the Status will indicate "Validated." If all prescriptions are placed on the verification reader, the entire customer block will turn green and the user may successfully complete a full transaction for the customer. If all of the prescriptions are not placed on the verification reader, the customer block will remain blue and the user may successfully complete a partial transaction for the customer.

[0119] In the exemplary implementation described above, green indicates that the customer name has been selected and all of the prescriptions for this customer have been placed on the verification reader. The user may successfully complete a full transaction for this customer. The screen allows the user to complete full transactions for all customers displayed in green and partial transactions for all customers displayed in blue by touching "Complete Transaction." The "validated" indicators are set for all prescriptions that have been placed on the verification reader (with a Status of Validated). A full transaction occurs when all prescriptions for the selected customer(s) have been located, placed on the verification pad and are verified. In a partial transaction not all of the customer's prescriptions have

32

DSMDB 18719903 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 been placed on the verification pad and been verified. The user may also cancel the current transaction and return to the Customer Search screen by touching "Cancel All."

[0120] If any customer blocks are displayed in blue on the screen, a popup window is displayed (not shown) and prompts the user to verify that they want to complete a partial transaction for those customers that are displayed in blue. If "Yes" is selected, the system completes the partial transactions. If "No" is selected, the system returns them to the Locate Prescriptions Results Screen.

[0121] The features of the Locate Prescriptions Results Screen indude:

[0122] Name/Address: (Feature 1) Customer information summary containing Customer Name, Date of Birth, Street Address, City, State, Zip Code;

[0123] Drug Name: (Feature 2) Provides the full drug name;

[0124] Dose: (Feature 3) The dosage of the prescription;

[0125] Prescription Number: (Feature 4) The prescription number as identified by the Pharmacy Host system;

[0126] Status: (Feature 5) Provides either the location of the prescription or verification that the prescription is read at Point-of-Sale Pad. The exemplary prescription locations include (the bin locations may be

33

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 customized for each pharmacy): Oversized, Bins, Refrigerator, Ready Zone, Antibiotic, Not Found and Validated;

[0127] Remove: (Feature 6) A button that allows the user to remove the prescription that was incorrectly placed on the Point-of-Sale Pad. The user may deselect the remove button by touching the button a second time. In order to complete the remove process, the user selects the "Refresh" button;

[0128] Scroll Bar: (Feature 7) A traditional scroll bar that allows the user to scroll up or down in order to see all names;

[0129] Add Customer: (Feature 8) Allows the user to add a customer to their selection criteria that currently appears as "red" on the current Locate Prescriptions Results Screen;

[0130] Complete Transaction: (Feature 9) Completes the prescription locating and validating process and returns the user to the Customer Search Screen;

[0131] Refresh: (Feature 10) Provides a refresh of the screen contents and reads additional items placed on the Point-of-Sale Pad. The system will retain those prescriptions previously placed on the pad and validated; and

[0132] Cancel All: (Feature 11) Cancels the transaction and takes the user to the Customer Search Screen. A popup window (not shown) displays and prompts the user to verify that they want to cancel the transaction. If the customer selects "Yes" the system returns them to the Customer Search

34

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

Screen and no data is saved. If the customer selects "No" the system returns them to the Locate Prescriptions Results screen and data is retained.

[0133] An exemplary implementation of methods of obtaining tracking management information related to a tracked item (e.g., prescription) for the foregoing illustrated application to a retail pharmacy environment will be described below in connection with FIGs. 16-21. FIG. 16 illustrates an exemplary screen to create an Waiting Bin Report. This exemplary implementation allows a user to create a variety of different reports. Once the report option has been selected, the user touches the "Preview" and the report (not shown) is displayed on the screen. The reports may be displayed in any one of a plurality of formats and printed by the user.

[0134] Features of the Waiting Bin Report Screen include:

[0135] Home/F8: User may return to Customer Search without selecting report option; and

[0136] Preview: Provides the user with an on-screen report for viewing. Exemplary data in the reports may include: Patient Name, Patient Telephone, Location, RF Date Filled, # of Days in Bin, RX/ Refill, Drug Name, $ Amount Due, and Total $ Amount Due.

[0137] FIG. 17 shows an exemplary screen for "Return to Waiting Bin" ideally used when a prescription or prescriptions have been validated, but not sold to the customer. This allows the prescription(s) to be returned to the waiting bin inventory and removes the validation flag. Exemplary

35

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 information that may be displayed on the screen indudes the Customer's Name, Address, Date of Birth, as well as the Drug Name, Dose, and Prescription Number. The Return To Waiting Bin button, once selected, removes the validation flag and the user should return the items to the appropriate waiting bins. The screen includes a traditional scroll bar that allows the user to scroll up or down in order to see all possible names. The "Cancel AU" button cancels the transaction and takes the user to the Customer Search Screen. A popup window displays and prompts the user to verify that they want to cancel the transadion. If the user selects "Yes," the system returns them to the Customer Search screen. If the user selects "No" the system returns them to the Return To Waiting Bin screen and data is retained.

[0138] FIG. 18 illustrates an exemplary "Return to Inventory" screen, which allows the user to return waiting bin inventory to stock. The appearance and operation are similar to the "Return to Waiting Bin" screen (FIG. 17) except that the "Return to Waiting Bin" button is replaced by the "Return to Inventory" button, which allows the user to return drugs in filled prescriptions back to pharmacy inventory.

[0139] FIG. 19 illustrates an exemplary screen that allows the user to create a Disaster Recovery report for a user-specified transadion date. The information displayed will be sorted by prescriptions sold versus prescriptions that were not sold. The secondary sort is by prescription number. Once the report has been selected, the user touches "Preview" and

36

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 the report is displayed on the screen. In one embodiment, the screen allows the user to print the report by touching the print icon on the screen.

[0140] A Disaster Recovery report is generated and may include: RX/ Refill, Patient Name (Last, First in ascending order), Location, RF Date Filled, NDC Code, Drug Name, and $ Amount Due.

[0141] FIG. 20 illustrates a screen that allows the user to create an NDC Inventory report for a user specified NCD Code. The NDC Code field accepts up to 11 alphanumeric characters and allows the user to select from several exemplary report options. The exemplary report options indude: all items with a specific NDC code in the waiting bins; all items with a specific NDC code sold in the last 30 days & in the waiting bins; all items with a specific NDC code sold in the last 60 days & in the waiting bins; and all items with a specific NDC code sold in the last 90 days & in the -waiting bins.

[0142] Once the report option has been selected, the user may select "Preview" and the report is displayed on the screen. The user can print the report by selecting the print icon.

[0143] An exemplary NDC report is illustrated in FIG. 21. The printed report may contain the report name, current date, NDC search criteria, store number and page number. The printed report may also state the HIPAA banner (e.g., WARNING: This report contains Protected Health Information (PHI) and is for' internal operational use ONLY).

[0144] Exemplary features of the NCD Inventory Report include:

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0145] Home/F8: (FIG. 20, Feature 1) User may return to the Customer Search without selecting a report option;

[0146] NDC Code: (FIG. 20, Feature 2) The NDC code of the drug the user is searching for;

[0147] Waiting Bin Report Type: (FIG. 20, Feature 3) All items with a specific NDC code in the waiting bins for a particular timef rame designated in Fields (features 4-5); and

[0148] Preview: (FIG. 20, Feature 6) Provides the user with an on-screen report for viewing.

[0149] The NDC Report data may include the following exemplary fields: Patient Name, Patient Telephone, Location, NDC Code, RF Date Filled, # of Days in Bin, RX/ Refill, Drug Name, $ Amount Due, and Total $ Amount Due.

[0150] It is to be understood that application of the invention to a specific problem or environment will be within the capability of one having ordinary skill in the art. Some of the exemplary implementations of preferred embodiments of the invention are illustrated by the following non-limiting examples.

[0151] While preferred embodiments of the invention have been described and illustrated, it should be apparent that many modifications to the embodiments and implementations of the invention can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. For example, reader 140 38

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

(FIG. 1) may be instructed by Controller 110 to interrogate, read, or otherwise activate one or more reader antennae (e.g., Reader antennael51-153) according to a priority order in a particular polling sequence, as disclosed in pending U.S. Patent Application No. 10/348,941, 60/536,703, and 60/536,704 which are hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety. The information read from the RFID tags (or other identification devices) may be written (or otherwise encoded) at any known location (e.g., at the manufacturer of the tags, manufacturer of the tagged item, distribution center such as a pharmacy, etc.). The tags may be "prewritten" with a unique number uniquely identifying the tag, information regarding the item (e.g., prescription), as well as predefined identification information (e.g., manufacturer number, SKU number, serial number, etc.).

[0152] Although embodiments and implementations of the invention have been specifically illustrated herein as applied to reader antennae for RFID tags placed on an item, the invention may easily be deployed or embodied in any form of (RF- or non-RF-based) antennae. Although only a single Tracking System has been illustrated, it should be apparent that there may be a plurality of such Systems, and when implemented, one or more of the Systems may be connected (directly or indirectly) with one or more Locality Structures 105 (or other components or modules).

[0153] Further, although the above described description relates specifically to tracking prescriptions in a single retail pharmacy, the same or similar methods and systems may be implemented for use in a group(s) of multiple retail pharmacies, wholesale or mail-order pharmacies, distributors, 39

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.O016/P016 etc. The methods and systems may further be implemented for tracking or processing of any other products (e.g., DVDs, books, electronics, etc. ). The disclosed embodiments and implementations may be particularly applicable to any products or services that require a restriction on dispensing (e.g., age verification for dgarettes, alcoholic beverages, etc.).

[0154] To the extent the illustrated embodiments have not specified the type of communication medium (or protocol) used to connect the various modules it should be apparent that any known wired/wireless technology may be used to implement the various embodiments of the invention, for example, PCI bus, Fire Wire™, USB, Internet, intranets, private bulletin boards, individual local or wide area networks, proprietary chat rooms, ICQ, IRC channels, instant messaging systems, WAP, Bluetooth, etc. using realtime or non-real-time systems alone or in combination.

[0155] In accordance with a preferred embodiment, one or more of the same or different user interfaces 130 are provided as part of or in conjunction with the illustrated systems to permit one or more users to interact with the systems. An individual device or plurality of individual devices, such as, network/stand-alone computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), WebTV or Internet-only terminals, set-top boxes, cellular/PCS phones, screenphones, pagers, kiosks, or other known wired or wireless communication devices, etc., may similarly be used to execute one or more computer programs, such as, universal Internet browser programs, dedicated interface programs, etc., to allow users to interface with the systems in the manner described .

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0156] The modules described herein, particularly those illustrated or inherent in, or apparent from the instant disclosure, may be one or more hardware, software, or hybrid components residing in or distributed among one or more local and/or remote computer or other processing systems. Although the modules may be shown or described herein as physically separated components it should be readily apparent that the modules may be omitted, combined or further separated into a variety of different components, sharing different resources including processing units, memory, clock devices, software routines, etc., as required for the particular implementation of the embodiments disclosed or apparent from the teachings herein. Indeed, even a single general purpose computer or other processor- controlled device executing a program stored on an article of manufacture, such as, recording medium such as a CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, memory cartridge, etc., to produce the functionality referred to herein may be utilized to implement the illustrated embodiments. User interface devices may be any device used to input and/or output information. The user interface device may be implemented as a graphical user interface (GUI) containing a display or the like, or may be a link to other user input/output devices known in the art.

[0157] In addition, database, storage, and other memory units described herein may be any one or more of the known storage devices, such as, Random Access Memory (RAM), Read Only Memory (ROM), hard disk drive (HDD), floppy drive, zip drive, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, bubble memory, flash memory, memory card, redundant array of independent disks (RAID),

41

DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 storage accessible network (SAN), network accessible storage (NAS), etc., and may also be one or more memory devices embedded within a controller or CPU, or shared with one or more of the other components. These units may be disposed locally, remotely, distributed, or otherwise logically or physically configured to practice the invention.

[0158] Moreover, the operational flows and methods shown in the various Figures can be modified to include additional steps, to change the sequence of the individual steps as well as combining or subdividing, simultaneously running, omitting, or otherwise modifying the individual steps shown and described in accordance with the invention. In addition to (or in lieu of) the verification steps disclosed herein, verification can made that the item and/or customer meet a predetermined criteria (e.g., age verification) before dispensing of the item. Numerous alternative methods may be employed to produce the outcomes described with respect to the preferred embodiments illustrated above, equivalent outcomes, as well as supplemental outcomes. In step 315 (FIG.4), information may be written to the RFID tag instead of (or in addition to) the reading of the RFID tag. It should be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that method steps inherent or apparent from the disclosure herein of various physical systems or components thereof may be implemented using the disclosed or any other systems in accordance with the invention. Detailed descriptions of such method steps therefore need not be provided herein.

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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016

[0159] It is to be understood therefore that the invention is not limited to the particular embodiments disclosed (or apparent from the disclosure) herein, but only limited by the claims appended hereto.

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DSMDB.1871990.3

Claims

Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016CLAIMS[0160] What is claimed as new and desired to be protected by a United States Patent is:
1. A method of using a tracking system to track an item, the method comprising the steps of: receiving, using an antenna, tracking information associated with a tracked item; reading an order identifier associated with an order for the tracked item; storing, in an order database, the tracking information and order identifier obtained from said steps of receiving tracking information and reading an order identifier; associating the tracking information with the order identifier and further assodating the tracking information with order information pertinent to the order for the tracked item; and activating a plurality of reader antennae to track a location of the tracked item.
2. The method of using a tracking system to track an item, as recited in claim 1, the method comprising the steps of: verifying that a predetermined criteria has been met; and dispensing the tracked item upon affirmative verification that the predetermined criteria has been met.
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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016
3. The method of using a tracking system to track an item, as recited in claim 2, wherein said verifying step comprises the step of verifying additional orders related to the order identifier read in said reading step.
4. The method of using a tracking system to track an item, as recited in claim 2, wherein said receiving step receives tracking information assodated with a tracked item in the form of a prescribed drug; and wherein said reading step reads an order in the form of a prescription order issued by a physidan for the prescribed drug.
5. The method of using a tracking system to track an item, as recited in claim 2, wherein said receiving step uses an RFID reader antenna to receive tracking information; and wherein said reading step uses a bar code reader to read an order for the tracked item.
6. A process of determining whether an RFID-tagged container includes a predetermined prescription, including storing information regarding the predetermined prescription in a prescription tracking system, associating the information regarding the predetermined prescription with the RFID-tagged container, detecting the RFID-tagged container with an RFID tag reader, and determining whether the RFID-tagged container includes the predetermined prescription.
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DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016
7. A method of processing a prescription using a prescription tracking system, the method comprising the steps of: reading RFID information, with an RFID reader antenna, from an RFID tag assodated with a container for use in housing a filled prescription; reading a machine-readable identifier associated with the prescription; storing, in a prescription database, the RFID information and machine-readable identifier obtained from said steps of reading an RFID tag and reading a machine-readable identifier; associating the RFID information with the machine- readable identifier and further associating the RFID information with prescription information pertinent to the prescription; and verifying that the filled prescription corresponds to the prescription information.
8. The method of processing a prescription using a prescription tracking system, as recited in claim 7, wherein said step of reading a machine-readable identifier comprises reading a bar code on a prescription form using a bar code reader.
9. The method of processing a prescription using a prescription tracking system, as recited in claim 7, further comprising: accessing prescription information from the prescription database controlled by a remotely located pharmacy host, 46
DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 wherein said accessing step is performed prior to performance of said verifying step; and wherein said step of verifying the filled prescription corresponds to pertinent information is performed using pertinent information which includes: patient name/address, patient prescription history, and other prescription orders that are to be filled or that have been filled.
10. A method of processing prescriptions, the method comprising the steps of: entering customer data in a prescription tracking system; identifying a plurality of customers that correspond to at least some portion of the customer data entered; selecting at least one customer; determining the respective locations of each prescription recorded in the prescription tracking system for the at least one selected customer; retrieving each prescription from the determined locations; reading RFID tags assodated with ead of the retrieved prescriptions; verifying that each of the retrieved prescriptions is intended for the at least one customer selected; and dispensing each of the verified prescriptions.
11. The method of processing prescriptions as recited in claim 10, wherein the method further comprises the steps of: 47
DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 displaying status of each of the prescriptions for which RFID tags are read in said reading step; and inhibiting the dispensing of prescriptions which are not intended for the at least one customer selected.
12. The method of processing prescriptions as recited in claim 10, wherein said determining step comprises: polling respective ones of a plurality of RFID reader antennae at different locations in a retail pharmacy to determine the presence of RFID tags corresponding to each prescription recorded in the prescription tracking system for the at least one selected customer.
13. A system for use in determining whether an RFID- tagged container includes a predetermined prescription, the system comprising: product support structures, wherein each product support structure is associated with at least one RFID antenna; at least one detecting device for detecting the location of each RFID-tagged container; and a controller device, wherein said controller device associates each RFID-tagged container with the predetermined prescription and determines whether each RFID-tagged container includes the predetermined prescription.
14. A system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, the system for use in the filling of prescriptions, the system comprising: 48
DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 at least one RFID tagged prescription, wherein the RFID tag has a unique RFID identifier uniquely identifying the RFID tagged prescription; a plurality of RFID reader antennae for detecting RFID tags; and a prescription tracking unit comprising: a reader for commumcating with said plurality of reader antennae; a database for storing information related to the at least one RFID tagged prescription; and a user interface for receiving input data and viewing information assodated with the at least one RFID tagged prescription.
15. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 14, wherein said prescription tracking unit is incorporated in a Quality Assurance (QA) unit, the system further comprising: a QA pad for reading RFID tagged prescriptions; a bar code scanner for reading bar code identifiers from bar codes on prescription forms corresponding to prescriptions to be filled; and a pharmacy host for providing access to information pertinent to prescriptions to be filled.
16. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 15, wherein said QA unit associates the RFID 49
DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016 identifier with a bar code identifier of a prescription to be filled, and stores the association in said pharmacy host.
17. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 16, wherein said pharmacy host stores the association of the RFID identifier and bar code identifiers for a given prescription with pertinent information related to the prescription, wherein such pertinent information indudes at least one of the following: patient name/address, patient prescription history, status of prescription, location of prescription, and dosage instructions.
18. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 14, wherein said plurality of RFID reader antennae are respectively distributed in different locations used to store different types of RFID tagged prescriptions.
19. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 18, wherein said plurality of RFID reader antennae are respectively distributed in at least one of the following locations: an oversize bin for housing oversized prescriptions; a refrigerator for housing prescriptions needing refrigeration; an antibiotic zone for housing antibiotic prescriptions; and a waiting area for housing prescriptions awaiting distribution. 50
DSMDB.1871990.3 Docket No.: M3405.0016/P016
20. The system for tracking RFID tagged prescriptions, as recited in claim 19, wherein said plurality of RFID reader antennae distributed in the waiting area are incorporated in individual bin liners of waiting bins used to hold RFID tagged prescriptions awaiting dispensing to patients.
51
DSMDB.1871990.3
PCT/US2005/001887 2004-01-22 2005-01-21 Systems for and methods of tracking rfid tagged items WO2005071978A1 (en)

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