Best Hospital Asset Tracking Technologies and Practices
In the healthcare industry, hospital asset tracking is an effective way to closely manage and monitor healthcare equipment and supplies. In recent years, most of the healthcare industry has adopted a type of management system to improve efficiency.
One of the benefits to installing a management system, is that hospitals can closely analyse the asset lifecycle. This can include the process of planning, acquiring, deploying, maintaining and eventually disposing of physical assets.
What are Hospital Assets?
Medical equipment can have significant value, which is one of the reasons why asset tracking and asset management are so important. The range of assets in a healthcare or medical setting, both physical and non-physical, are vast. They can include:
- Medical waste
- Patient documents
Hospitals and medical facilities may often be spread across multiple sites, which can prove challenging when manually managing assets.
Having accurate and up-to-date visibility of assets and inventory can help a healthcare organisation in a number of ways. It can help with asset depreciation calculations, and can facilitate buying in bulk. Both of which can offer significant cost savings.
Why is Hospital Asset Tracking effective?
Tracking can reduce the number of situations where an asset is unexpectedly unavailable, or can help to track down an asset which has gone missing. If an asset need to be tracked down manually, this can have a negative impact on productivity. It’s estimated that around 6,000 nursing hours every month are lost in the US due to searching for equipment.
Installing an asset tracking system in hospitals can even help to support patient care and improve patient experience. It can also help to notify staff when equipment requires maintenance, which helps to ensure equipment remains compliant.
Medical waste and equipment disposal are also important to track and manage, as hospitals are responsible for the medical waste they produce. They need to ensure that these items are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.
Using Asset Tracking in Hospitals
Manually recording hospital assets
Manually tracking and managing assets, usually by inputting data into spreadsheets, can have some advantages. One main advantage is the low set-up and running costs.
But, a manual tracking system is only as good as the person who is updating it. For example, in a high-pressure situation where time is of the essence, which is common in a hospital setting, it can be easy to forget. On average, fraud and human error are costing businesses in the UK £98.6 billion a year (rahmanravelli.co.uk)
It can also be an extremely labour-intensive task and can quickly go out of date.
Manual recording isn’t really feasible as a stock management option for the same reasons.
Using barcode tracking
It is very common for most medical inventories to have been managed using a barcode tracking system. This technology is an easy and cheap way of labelling assets, but it doesn’t always prove useful for tracking assets.
The challenge with barcodes is that they need to be scanned individually whilst in close proximity to the scanner. Unlike, for example, RFID technology that allows a batch of items to be identified as it moves past a scanning point or within reach of a mobile reader.
In some environments, barcodes can also degrade or become less visible which can cause issues with tracking.
Hospital asset tracking with RFID technology
Modern healthcare organisations are turning to more technological solutions to support their asset management strategies. One of the most solutions is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
RFID utilises wireless technology and radio frequency waves to transfer data and effectively track assets, and has significant benefits that barcoding and manual recording simply can’t match.
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is just one healthcare organisation that has invested in RFID tracking technology. Their Medical Equipment Library has tagged over 30,000 medical devices widely used to support patient care.
Each active tag that the NHS Foundation Trust uses has a unique ID, which is scanned by using a personal digital assistants. The tracking system then automatically updates the location data in to the system so that the asset can be tagged. As a result, they have seen significant financial and resource savings since implementing the RFID system.
However, RFID can be an expensive technology t0 use when compared to some of the older types of asset tracking. So, it’s important to do a full cost analysis before investing in a hospital asset tracking system.
Where do you go from here?
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