Staff in overstretched healthcare facilities are under constant pressure to meet the needs of surging patient volumes and higher expectations of quality care. To meet these demands, they need to operate in a more streamlined work environment, and a key component of an effective workflow is asset tracking and management. Maintaining an accurate health asset inventory register and monitoring electrical and environmental conditions is essential to ensure vital equipment is readily found and operational when needed. It could mean the difference between life and death.
Keeping track of critical medical equipment enables frontline staff to provide quick and quality health care. For years healthcare facilities have used real-time location systems (RTLS) to track beds and other high price items. But, in the digital age, RFID asset tracking in hospital settings has become an essential element in improving services to patients while reducing costs. With a cutting-edge asset tracking platform in place, management and staff are empowered to manage their resources efficiently, assured in the knowledge that they always know the exact location and condition of their critical equipment.
Whether it's environmental monitoring, location tracking, or safety management, healthcare facilities are increasingly leaning towards asset tracking systems and reaping the benefits. This is why the demand for robust healthcare asset tracking systems continues to grow. From an $11 billion industry in 2019, the market is poised to grow to $84.5 billion by 2027.
Having state-of-the-art medical equipment demand systems that leverage the latest technology to track and manage these expensive medical assets while facilitating an effective maintenance schedule to extend asset lifespans. RFID software companies are fast emerging as the solution to the myriad of asset management and tracking challenges by providing real-time automated asset tracking, real-time environmental and power monitoring to ensure continuous visibility critical for health care facilities.
What are the Challenges of Asset Tracking?
Healthcare assets cover a wide range of systems and medical equipment including critical devices such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, X-rays, bedside monitors, and surgical tools. It can also include many non-electrical/electronic equipment such as mobile hospital beds, wheelchairs. The systems used to run the medical center: plumbing, heating, electrical, cooling, ventilation, and information technology can be added to the mix.
Unlike asset tracking systems in other industries, healthcare asset tracking takes on an added urgency. Not only is it of vital importance to determine equipment location and availability, but ensuring an item is in excellent working conditions before deployment is critical. Providing patients with the urgent treatment they need to survive an emergency requires an accurate, powerful, and reliable asset management system.
A study conducted by global research agency Gartner estimates that 10-20% of a hospital's inventory goes missing or is misplaced every year. It’s further estimated that between $4000 and $5000 worth of equipment goes missing per bed – if a hospital has 300 wards, that is $1,500,000 worth of equipment that has vanished. For many cash-strapped hospitals and healthcare facilities, missing equipment puts added strain on the financial stability of these facilities.
While all assets in a hospital are important, some carry more weight due to their sensitive nature and federally mandated requirements. Environmental monitoring of many pharmaceuticals is crucial to ensure their efficacy. When a medication that is meant to be housed in a cool and dry area is left in a hot and damp area, you have problems. Blood tests, stool samples, and other laboratory orders require environmental stability to render accurate results. When asset maintenance systems are inefficient, patients suffer and hospital staff is under pressure to retest or reorder inventory and assets.
Keeping track of the assets’ respective locations within the hospital, ascertaining its working condition, and assigning pull-out and maintenance work is a full-time job. If asset management’s main goals are to ensure functional and well-maintained equipment, investing in a cutting-edge healthcare asset tracking system could represent a smart move.
The Benefits of Asset Tracking
An effective healthcare asset tracking system allows patients to get the right care and treatment, at the right time. RF Code’s patented RFID technology takes the guesswork out of locating important (and not so important assets). Deploying assets becomes a much simpler task once you know item location, which ones to deploy, and where they should go.
RFID tracking tags can be added to inventory that alerts personnel of items being taken off hospital property and tracks assets as they move throughout the facility; providing real-time solutions to misplaced inventory.
Furthermore, tagging and tracking mean being aware of what assets hospitals have, don’t have, and what they need to replace. Inventory is accounted for and the practice of wasteful expenditure on assets that are already there, but are just misplaced, is eliminated.
In addition, we have identified 3 key areas which can yield significant benefits for both healthcare providers and patients.
Enhanced Patient Care
The end goal of any healthcare facility is to provide quality health care for all its patients. In most cases, unfortunately, this excellent standard is potentially at risk because experienced healthcare professionals are often sidetracked with other unrelated tasks, such as tracking down missing assets and dealing with unplanned maintenance.
These issues can significantly impact patient care, waiting times, and even the number of beds available. Asset management systems help to ensure that assets are where they should be and in working condition, easily accessible by both patients and healthcare professionals when needed.
With RFID sensors, hospitals are also able to track whether doctors and staff are following hygiene and safety regulations. This technology makes sure everyone is following directives and policies while reducing the spread of illnesses throughout the facility; which can prolong hospital stays and can even be life-threatening in some instances.
Having an asset tracking system in place also means that inventory and orders are easier to manage. This can prove a lot less time-consuming than a manual stock take and allows healthcare professionals to spend more time caring for their patients.
Increased Staff Productivity Levels
Statistics show nurses spend hours per day scouring their facilities in search of vital equipment to serve their patients. With time a critical factor in healthcare, misplaced or lost equipment can lead to life-threatening situations. With the average hospital worker spending 72 minutes on average searching for assets it’s not an exaggeration to say that access to critical equipment can sometimes be a matter of life or death.
Not only does this have knock-on cost implications, but it also takes nurses away from their primary role which is caring for patients. With a tracking system in place and assets easily located, doctors and nurses spend less time tracking down the tools they need.
An added benefit in terms of productivity is that maintenance and asset downtime is planned for much more efficiently. This can minimize disruption and allows maintenance functions to be carried out in less busy periods.
Better Business Operations and Resource Management
An asset tracking system generates real-time data about assets and how they are utilized within the facility. It captures usage information and records maintenance work for each device. This helps create an accurate ROI assessment of all equipment and provides its true and current value.
Tagging and tracking mean having a firm grasp of what assets hospitals have, don’t have, and what they need to replace. Inventory is accounted for and the practice of wasteful expenditure on assets that are already there, but are just misplaced, is eliminated.
With an effective asset tracking system, management has real-time insights into a facility’s overall performance levels. It enables you to form an accurate picture of your entire operation and identify areas where you can channel resources for optimal results.
With effective and consistent monitoring of equipment, problems can be identified early on, meaning you can readily determine which items need maintenance, repair, or replacement. These determinations can also impact operational expenses.
More importantly, better overall control of valuable healthcare assets means more efficient deployment and usage. With less waiting time, patients are reassured of an improved customer experience. All this points to better business, brought on by investing in an effective healthcare asset tracking system.
Dealing With Missing Hospital Equipment and Supplies
Like most modern businesses, hospitals deal with supply chains and often order a fiscal year’s worth of equipment and supplies. Without a proper way to tag and account for each purchased asset, the possibility of missing and stolen supplies increases considerably.
Losing critical assets due to theft, loss, or negligence leads to two scenarios, both equally problematic. First, it forces the company to shell out more in terms of operating expenses. With supplies already committed, the organization will have to reorder and pay to replace the missing items. Second, the quality of service provided by the facility will likely be affected if critical equipment or supplies suddenly become unavailable. In both cases, expect the bottom line to take a hit.
Time is of the essence in hospitals, and not being able to track down a missing asset can have huge repercussions for patient care. Just how serious is the problem of lost or stolen medical equipment? Research shows that between 10% and 20% of a typical hospital’s mobile assets end up stolen or lost every year, costing hospitals an average loss of $3,000 per item. Money that could easily have been saved if you were using a robust hospital asset management solution. Money that could’ve been spent on research, hiring more staff, or even improved healthcare initiatives.
Efficient tracking processes can take care of tasks as varied as locating medical equipment, providing up-to-date data on each item, and offering complete access to maintenance records. With this ‘anytime-anywhere access’ to critical information, staff spends less time searching for equipment and more time taking care of patients.
Next-Level Asset Tracking and Management for Healthcare Facilities
In the case of electronic health records, healthcare companies that implemented edge computing or colocation data centers within their facilities can get the added benefit of speedier access to patient records and quicker data transmission. This allows organizations to make quicker informed decisions on many urgent matters involving patients.
Implementing edge data computing at or near the place of operation does have some risks. Any downtime that suspends access to critical medical information can be detrimental to a patient’s well-being. According to the American Association of Pediatrics, a whopping 96% of 50 hospitals surveyed said that they experienced at least one downtime during the past three years. More concerning is the fact that among the hospitals that reported the downtime, 70% said the downtime lasted more than eight hours. This issue can also be costly: experts estimate that the potential loss of healthcare providers per minute of downtime where records are unavailable is at $8,662.
Ensuring that edge data centers remain optimally operational also requires an efficient edge asset tracking system. Ideally, the system can help track individual devices that form part of the data center, but should also effectively monitor the environment around the assets. This includes power availability, temperature, humidity, and moisture. These factors, when not monitored properly and addressed preemptively, can cause downtime which leads to potential patient issues and ultimately, bigger expenses.
Real-Time Healthcare Asset Tracking With RF Code
Real-time asset management is critical in today's dynamic data center environments, and RF Code provides active RFID-powered solutions that deliver superior real-time asset tracking and protection for assets in the healthcare industry. RFID tags are attached to each asset enabling a continuous stream of data detailing the performance and operational efficiency from each device to RF Code’s flagship monitoring software: CenterScape.
With RF Code's CenterScape platform, IT asset managers can keep track of what really matters, including location, status, and temperature.
Learn more how RF Code’s cutting-edge solutions can help provide the ultimate healthcare asset tracking system for your organization. Visit RF Code and we’ll gladly schedule a demo.