Best Hospital Asset Tracking Technologies and Practices
Hospital asset tracking is an effective way to closely monitor your medical tools and supplies. In recent years, most of the healthcare industry has adopted a type of management system to improve efficiency.
One of the benefits of installing a tracking system is to be able to analyse each asset’s entire lifecycle. This includes the process of planning, acquiring, deploying, maintaining, and eventually disposing of physical assets.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
What are Your Hospital Assets?
Medical tools can have significant value, which is one of the reasons why asset tracking and asset management are an important investment in the healthcare industry. The range of assets in a hospital, both physical and non-physical, are vast. They 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 facilities in a number of different ways, such as calculating accurate asset depreciation figures and facilitating bulk procurements. Both of which can offer significant cost savings.
Why is Hospital Asset Tracking So Effective?
Deploying asset tracking can reduce the number of situations where an asset is unexpectedly unavailable. As well as tracking down an asset that might have gone missing. If an asset needs to be tracked down manually, this can have a negative impact on productivity. In fact, it’s estimated that nurses spend around 6,000 hours a month searching for equipment.
Installing an asset tracking system in hospitals can even help to support patient care and improve the entire patient experience. It can also help to notify staff when equipment requires maintenance, which helps to ensure assets remain compliant.
Chemical waste and equipment disposal is 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.
How to Track Medical Assets in a Hospital
Manually recording hospital assets
Manually tracking and managing assets via a spreadsheet, can have its advantages. One main benefit being the low set-up and running costs.
But, a manual asset 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, human error is costing businesses in the UK £98.6 billion a year.
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’s 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 them.
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.
Using RFID technology
Modern medical organisations are turning to more technological solutions to support their asset strategies. One of the most popular solutions is Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).
RFID utilises wireless technology and radiofrequency waves to transfer data. It effectively tracks assets and has significant benefits that barcoding and manual recording simply can’t match.
Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH) is just one organisation that has invested in RFID tracking technology. Their Equipment Library has tagged over 30,000 medical devices widely used to support patient care.
Each active tag that CUH uses has a unique ID, which is scanned by using a personal digital assistant. The tracking system then automatically updates the location data into the system so that the asset can be tagged. As a result, there has been 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.